CCTV in your workplace? Is this the future?

Updated July 2016.

London has more surveillance CCTV cameras per person than any other city in the word. We are constantly being watched and many people accept this as a positive security measure to keep our city streets safe.

Although given the choice we may choose not to be filmed on CCTV, there is no denying there are benefits to having surveillance in place under many circumstances where there is a risk to our personal safety.

Although CCTV use is perfectly acceptable in public, especially when it is used to great effect to secure business premises and act as a deterrent for crime, more business owners are using CCTV within the workplace.

Business owners and employers may want to install cameras for a number of reasons such as:

For security reasons: to prevent theft from shops, stores and warehouses.
For health and safety reasons: to ensure that health and safety rules are being complied with in such places as food handling and production facilities, but also to provide evidence of any breach that may occur.

These reasons my seem perfectly reasonable and acceptable to most employees working under these circumstances, but what about when an employer wants to set up CCTV in an office work environment? They may feel they are justified in installing cameras to cover the following issues:

To protecting their business interests and prevent misconduct in the workplace.
For monitoring, assessing and improving staff productivity.

This sort of surveillance by employers can run the risk of damaging the mutual trust and confidence of their employees. If this happens then employees may be choose to resign then claim constructive unfair dismissal.

Rules and regulations

According to the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA): employers should act in accordance with the DPA and its eight key principles. The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) enforces the DPA and breach of it may lead to sanctions and bad publicity for employers. Employers should also be conscious of the increased risk of receiving subject access requests (SARs) from employees where monitoring is used, as employees may become nervous about the data which their employer holds and are more likely to apply to the ICO for disclosure of such data. It will inevitably waste valuable time dealing with and responding to SARs and ICO investigations.

According to the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA): employers in the public sector should be particularly aware of the right to privacy which their employees have under the HRA as it applies directly to them. However, it is still important for employers in the private sector to consider this right, and to ensure their monitoring is not disproportionate or intrusive, as tribunals and courts are expected to take it into account when making decisions.

Practical tips and advice

It is advised that employers who want to install CCTV in their workplace should first conduct a comprehensive impact assessment to justify the use of surveillance equipment in the workplace. The assessment should strive to identify the reason behind the desire for monitoring and document the likely benefits of doing so as well as listing the possible negative impacts too.

Employers would also be obliged to notify existing and future employees to make sure they are aware of their obligations and ensure that they are given a chance to voice their concerns. They would be advised to draw up a detailed report to explain the nature and extent of the surveillance proposed as well as the reasons behind it.

A policy would also need to be drawn up once CCTV systems are installed detailing the reasons for monitoring. The policy would be given out to existing and new employees and made freely available on the company internet or intranet, and staff would be issued with a form to sign to say they have read and understood the policy.

There would obviously be places where installing CCTV would not be justified under any circumstances, such as within staff changing rooms or bathrooms. However, monitoring of public entrances and doorways where people would expect to have cameras is perfectly acceptable.

The Data Protection Act states that all data captured must be relevant for its purpose and stored securely and not kept for any longer than is necessary.

Other strategies open to you

With employee rights and the risks involved in using CCTV in the workplace, it may be less time consuming and difficult to try other methods, especially if the intent is to use surveillance for staff productivity measures.

Going down the CCTV route may be quite damaging to your staff morale, reputation as an employer and reflect badly on your staff retention rates. A better approach may be to look at restructuring your existing management infrastructure, employing a staff relationship manager, increase staff training and staff team building days.