Apr 27, 2018

Workplace Camera Surveillance: Is This Legal?

While Australians may have enjoyed their Big Brother television shows, the idea of being on video cameras seldom goes down well at work. There is increasing evidence workplace camera surveillance is bad for employer-employee relationships, and creates an ‘insecure, nervous workforce.’ Moreover, employees may suffer above-average anxiety and depression leading to lower productivity.


Why Good Employees Resent Workplace Camera Surveillance

It is incorrect to assume that honest employees do not worry about being on camera. Nobody wants to be on record during private moments adjusting clothing, flirting, practicing religious observances etc. It feels like a personal intrusion. Just knowing the boss saw you, can be enough to break trust. Nevertheless, employers also have a right to manage their business. Clearly, we need to strike a balance that is fair to all.


The New South Wales Workplace Video Surveillance Act

The New South Wales legislation is unique among other Australian states and territories, but provides useful broader guidelines. It seeks to regulate and restrict workplace camera surveillance by setting the rules for ‘fair play.’ This sharpens the focus compared to other acts that take a broader view of filming private activities.


After the Act became law in 1999, the Attorney General and Minister for Industrial Relations said, “The secret filming of workers in the workplace will be illegal unless there are reasonable grounds to suspect an employee is committing an unlawful act and a court authority is obtained …This is not 1984 and we do not want a big brother State. We all have rights to privacy."

Important Distinctions between Covert and Open Video Surveillance


The New South Wales Workplace Video Surveillance Act requires the following be in place before turning on the cameras for OPEN workplace camera surveillance:

  • At least 14 days’ notice must be provided to all employees
  • The majority of employees must agree to camera surveillance
  • There must be warning signs indicating the presence of cameras
  • The cameras may not be concealed. This is open surveillance.

The Act also provides for COVERT workplace camera surveillance. In this case, an employer must:

  • Convince a magistrate of reasonable grounds to suspect unlawful activity
  • Appoint a licensed security operator to oversee the camera surveillance
  • Destroy all tapes not necessary as evidence within three months

Neither OPEN nor COVERT workplace camera surveillance may take place in toilets or showers. The Act exempts casino operators, law enforcement agencies, and correctional facilities from compliance. QLD Covert Investigations is a licensed security operator with our sister business Qld Diamond Security
Contact us for more advice on OPEN and COVERT workplace camera surveillance.

 

 

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