CCTV in the workplace – is it lawful?

The many uses of CCTV

Your business may already have some kind of security camera system in place in order to protect it from burglary, vandalism or other anti-social crimes. However, many businesses are now setting up CCTV to monitor not only their property, but also the activities of their workforce too.

Can you use CCTV to monitor employees?

The Data Protection Commissioner has reported a rise in queries about using CCTV in the workplace, after poor standards of care in some Irish crèches were revealed.

It’s a complex subject, and not as straightforward as it may seem.

The Data Protection Commissioner has stated that while you are allowed to install CCTV on your premises in certain circumstances, for example for security purposes, using CCTV cameras for monitoring your employees could be a breach of the Data Protection Acts and your employees’ right to privacy.

Can you justify it?

As an employer, you are also a Data Controller, as you are responsible for maintaining and storing your employees’ personal data. The Data Protection Acts state that as a Data Controller, you must be satisfied that the installation of CCTV cameras is justifiable and that the reasons for the use of such cameras is reasonable in all the circumstances.

What are the pros?

There are valid business advantages for workplace CCTV, including:

  • regularly checking that health and safety rules are followed and that footage is available in the event of a breach;
  • protecting your business interests; and 
  • complying with legal and regulatory obligations.

So while you may choose to put up CCTV cameras in certain circumstances, there are a few things that you should bear in mind first before doing so.

Keep everyone in the loop

For starters, it’s essential that you inform your employees of the use and purposes of the CCTV systems within your business. Consider putting a CCTV policy together that fully explains these factors, and ask your employees to agree to the policy. It is prudent that you should ensure that all employees sign the policy, acknowledging that they have read and accept the terms of your CCTV policy. If they refuse to agree and you take disciplinary action against them, you should be aware of the possibility of that employee making a complaint of covert monitoring.

What’s more, you should be aware that your employees are entitled to request the data that you hold on them, and that includes any images recorded on CCTV.

Always follow your discipline procedure

Once your employees have agreed to the CCTV monitoring, you may find that you might catch an employee “red-handed” on camera breaching company rules. It is important to bear in mind that however clear cut the video images are, you should continue to follow a fair procedure during the disciplinary procedure.

Trust issues

You can’t ignore the fact that setting up CCTV to monitor your employees can present trust issues. They could perceive the implementation of such devices in the workplace as spying, which could affect morale, motivation and even productivity.

If you are considering installing surveillance cameras to keep track of your workforce, it’s a good idea to carry out an impact assessment to justify doing so. Consider:

• Why do you want to monitor your employees?
• What benefits do you hope to see?
• What adverse impacts might you encounter?
• Are there are any alternatives, such as manager supervision or additional training for your workforce?

While installing CCTV in your business to monitor you workforce has its advantages, there are negative considerations that you need to carefully assess first before implementing these security measures.


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