Written by Melanie Darlington, Senior HR Consultant

Employers may install CCTV for various reasons including:

  • security: to prevent theft, violence and other crime.
  • health and safety: to check that health and safety rules are being complied with and/or so that footage is available in the event of a specific breach.
  • protecting business interests: e.g. to prevent misconduct.
  • assessing and improving productivity
  • compliance with legal and regulatory obligations: this is more likely in the financial services sector.

If your business uses CCTV, you must tell people they may be recorded. This is usually done by displaying signs, which must be clearly visible and readable. It is also essential to have a workplace monitoring clause in your Employee Handbook/Contract of Employment.

Employees have rights at work and if you don’t treat them fairly they could take you to an employment tribunal and complain to the Information Commissioner.

You must make them aware that they’re being monitored, and why and also explain your policies on things like using work computers or phones for personal use.

You can monitor staff without their knowledge if you suspect they’re breaking the law and letting them know about it would make it hard to detect the crime. Only do this as part of a specific investigation, and stop when the investigation is over.

You must also notify the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) why you’re using the CCTV. You should control who can see the recordings, and make sure the system is only used for the purpose it was intended for.

Guidance says that if the system was set up to detect crime, you should not use it to monitor the amount of work done by your staff.

Employers should not act in a way which is likely to destroy or damage the relationship of mutual trust and confidence between themselves and employees. If they do so, there is a risk that employees will resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal.

Employers should act in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) enforces the DPA and breach of it may lead to sanctions and bad publicity for employers. Employers should be mindful of the increased subject access requests (SARs) from employees

Employers in the public sector should be particularly aware of the right to privacy which their employees have under the Human Rights Act 1998 (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.

The use of CCTV in break areas, toilets and changing rooms would be hard to justify under any circumstances. In an area like a public entrance, however, where expectations of privacy are low, CCTV is more easily justified.

Ensure employees can voice their concerns in confidence and are given the chance to explain or challenge any footage where it is used as part of a disciplinary process. If this is not done, there is a risk an employee will seek to obtain an enforcement notice from the ICO preventing the use of such data. Where footage is critical to a disciplinary investigation, it would be frustrating to lose the right to rely on such evidence in these circumstances.

The data captured must be relevant, not excessive, securely stored and not kept for longer than is necessary.

Anyone can ask to see images that you’ve recorded of them. You must provide these within 40 days, and can charge up to £10.

Covert monitoring will only be justifiable where there are grounds to suspect criminal activity or extremely serious misconduct. If such monitoring is undertaken it would be advisable to ensure that:

  • senior management authorises its use;
  • it is only carried out for a set timeframe and as part of a specific investigation;
  • the risk of intrusion on innocent workers is considered;
  • areas where privacy is expected remain private; and
  • limited numbers of people are involved.

If you have any queries or concerns in relation to the above, please do not hesitate to contact the HR Consultancy team on 01484 439930 for support and guidance.