Is Big Brother watching you as you work?
The answer to that question probably depends on where you’re working because legislation governing electronic surveillance and monitoring of employees in the workplace isn’t consistent throughout the states and territories in Australia.
However, there is certainly legislation governing the handling of personal information in Australia and it is enforced at both federal and state/territory level.
Firstly, the federal Privacy Act 1988 regulates the handling of personal information about individuals throughout the country largely through the 13 Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) set out within the Privacy Act.
At state and territory level, legislation is largely device-specific and doesn’t only apply to the workplace. Moreover, the laws are inconsistent across the various jurisdictions.
For example, Western Australia’s Surveillance Devices Act 1998 (WA) regulates the use of video or visual surveillance of an individual’s private activities whilst New South Wales and the ACT have legislation that relates specifically to workplace surveillance. In all jurisdictions however, employers must comply with strict procedures with regards to obtaining permission to conduct covert workplace surveillance.
Anyone handling personal information (including companies) is required to comply with state and federal surveillance legislation which governs the way in which individuals can and cannot be monitored.
Naturally, employers want to ensure a safe and secure workplace for their staff and visitors and they want to protect their assets, be they physical (products, equipment etc) or intellectual (data, intellectual capital etc) from being used or taken unlawfully. Whilst some individuals are comfortable with the concept of being ‘watched’ and would embrace surveillance in their workplace because it would make them feel safer, others feel that covert surveillance is a breach of their privacy.
Workplace surveillance can take many different forms including CCTV video surveillance, listening devices and telephone surveillance, geolocation tracking, monitoring computer usage and biometrics. The laws governing each of these aren’t the same throughout the country, and it is important to know exactly what can and can’t be done.
It may be reasonable for a business to install surveillance cameras to monitor employees to ensure that they are performing their duties and using resources appropriately – provided that all activities comply with legislation.
Generally, the use of security cameras is not illegal in a workplace, but it does depend on how video surveillance systems are introduced, installed and monitored and what they are used for in the workplace.
For instance, an employer cannot simply install secret video camera surveillance of its employees based on a hunch or suspicion that someone in the workplace is involved in activities that are either illegal or subject to misconduct. Of course, a company may perceive a need for installing say, video cameras for security purposes (of both the people and the property at the premises), but certain steps need to be taken and protocols followed in order for the surveillance to be compliant with legislation.
For example, employers are required to notify their employees before installing or activating CCTV cameras in the workplace. They’re also obliged to keep any recordings safe to protect their employees’ privacy and destroy these once the employee is no longer with the company.
It’s always advisable to consult professionals before introducing any type of workplace surveillance into your business because the laws do change and can be confusing – and any breaches can be extremely costly.
If you are considering introducing workplace surveillance into your business, you will need to implement a new company policy which sets outs clear guidelines and ensures compliance with any relevant legislation.
A professional security company like Crown Security keeps abreast of changing legislation and has a wealth of experience so they can advise clients on what is and isn’t allowed in terms of workplace surveillance. They can help you set out a new company policy and develop an appropriate commercial security system – plus they’ll have answers to any questions you may have such as:
- Can the company film employees covertly?
- Is it OK to record sound?
- What type of device can be installed?
- Where are cameras allowed?
- Is there any place that cameras aren’t allowed?
- What are the legal requirements in terms of storing images and footage?
Crown Security is one of the leading security companies in Perth and they understand the value and importance of sustainable security systems for protecting businesses. If you’re looking for security solutions, including workplace surveillance that is fully compliant with all legislative requirements, Crown Security has the answers. For more information, please contact them on 08 9400 6000 or visit www.crownsecurity.com.au.
- Posted by admin
- On 28/05/2019