Making good use of CCTV in the workplace

There are benefits but make you sure you follow the rules

CCTV workplaceCCTV workplace

The use of CCTV in the workplace can have a number of benefits for employees and for businesses. However, employers need to remember that they should follow good practice for the use of CCTV as staff are entitled to some privacy at work.

CCTV: one of your monitoring tools

CCTV can be used as part of a range of monitoring that an employer may carry out. This could also include email and web monitoring; listening to telephone calls or bag searching. As the Law Donut business information website explains there are many legitimate and lawful business reasons why employers can monitor employees using CCTV. These include:

  • to keep employees safe and secure by preventing violence or theft;
  • to prevent pilfering, malingering, deliberate damage or other misconduct;
  • to ensure and record that health and safety procedures are being followed;
  • to monitor and improve productivity;
  • to comply with regulatory requirements in some sectors (eg financial services).
  • Respecting the law

Respect your employees’ rights

When using CCTV in the workplace, three key areas of law must be observed. Firstly, employers must not act in a way that is likely to destroy or damage the mutual trust and confidence between an employer and employee. If they do, an employee can claim constructive dismissal according to Law Donut.

Secondly, data protection laws and principles regulate how employers can collect and process personal data about employees – which includes video footage recorded using CCTV cameras. These laws and principles give employees the right to ask which data is held on them and why it is collected and processed. There are also limits on how long such data can be held.

Finally, employers should respect their employees’ rights to privacy under human rights law by making sure CCTV monitoring is proportionate and not too intrusive.

The purpose for CCTV must be clear

According to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), employers must tell employees about any monitoring arrangements and the reason for it. This follows the general code of practice for camera surveillance.

Signs should:

  • be clear, visible and readable
  • contain details of the purpose of the surveillance and who to contact about the scheme
  • include contact details such as website address, telephone number or e mail address.

If the employer gives a reason for the cameras for example to prevent theft, the employer cannot then use the footage for another reason such as recording entry and exit of workers from the workplace.

The information gathered through monitoring should only be used for the purpose it was carried out for, unless it leads to the discovery of other things such as a breach of health and safety.

Law Donut recommends that if CCTV is to be introduced within a workplace there is consultation with employees so that they are fully informed. It suggests that employers should explain why CCTV is being introduced as well as how monitoring will take place; the nature of the monitoring; how information obtained will be used; and how their rights (e.g. to privacy) will be protected.

The Information Commissioner’s Office Employment Practices Code contains further detailed guidance and recommendations.

Covert surveillance should be avoided

In very rare circumstances employers may feel the need to carry out covert surveillance, although this should be avoided if possible. ACAS states that employers must have a genuine reason to carry out covert monitoring such as criminal activities or malpractice. Monitoring must be obtained as quickly as possible, and only as part of a specific investigation. The monitoring must stop when the investigation has finished.

Protecting restaurant, bar and shop staff

In its guidance on reducing work-related violence and crime within shops, bars and restaurants the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said CCTV can help reduce the risk of incidents by:

  • helping staff and customers feel safer;
  • acting as a deterrent to offenders;
  • helping you to direct staff or security to where they’re needed;
  • enabling you to collect evidence to help find and convict offenders

The HSE said it is important for businesses to be clear on what they want CCTV to help with as the objectives of your CCTV system will have an impact on what kind of system they need in terms of technical equipment, staffing and training.

Staff training  in CCTV is essential

CCTV, the HSE said, should be used in combination with other crime and violence prevention measures and cameras should be sited in places where you have the highest risk of violence and crime. It is also important that staff should know how to operate and use the system. Meanwhile, the staff who monitor the CCTV system need to be alert and committed, and you need to know that they will not misuse the system.

Ecl-ips is a well-established CCTV provider and installer. If you need advice on whether CCTV is right for your business needs contact us.