Surveillance

I spy ..... over the years it has become more widespread for employers to use video surveillance in the workplace.
 
There are two kinds of video surveillance, the first is Overt (obvious, unconcealed) and the second is Covert (secret, concealed).  Both are subject to the Privacy Act and should not be carried out in such areas as bathrooms or changing rooms, where there is a high expectation of privacy.

Overt Surveillance is when an employer installs a video camera which is obvious and visible to staff, customers, visitors etc.  In this instance it is best practice to ensure employees are aware of the surveillance and why it is being used.  It is common when using overt surveillance to display signs as a deterrent to any wrongdoing or theft in the workplace.  These days it can also be used as a form of safety and welfare of staff.

Covert Surveillance is when an employer uses a hidden video camera where there is suspicion that an act of theft or other serious offences are taking place in the workplace.  When this option is suggested by advisors, it is surprising the number of employers who believe that this kind of surveillance can not be carried out for privacy reasons.  This is not unlawful under the Privacy Act and often the only means by which an employer can check an employee’s involvement in suspicious activity or otherwise.  In this case, to inform or alert employees may prevent the investigation of theft or wrongdoing as the activities would not usually occur if employees were aware of the cameras. Video cameras focus on a particular area of a business and record the activities that take place in that space.

If using covert surveillance, employers should collect sufficient evidence to satisfy their suspicions and then remove the video camera.  It is not reasonable to keep recording long term for no real purpose.

If there is evidence that appears to indicate criminal activity including theft, an employer should undertake a fair and thorough investigation in accordance with the law and their own company disciplinary procedures. Depending on circumstances, affected employees may be entitled to view the footage relied upon for the disciplinary action that follows. It is commonplace that in situations where employers have discovered that their employees have been involved in theft or other undesirable activities, that the basic tenets of trust and confidence have been breached and therefore the employment relationship has been destroyed.

Before introducing video surveillance into a workplace, there are certain things employers need to be aware of and, as always, should seek sound advice before taking any such action.

Paddy Battersby, Battersby HR Consulting, www.battersbyhr.com, 09 838 6338, paddy@battersbyhr.com

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