Legal implications of CCTV in the workplace
- June 29, 2020
- Jonathan Earl
- Comments Off on Legal implications of CCTV in the workplace
Generally, the use of CCTV in the workplace must be “necessary and proportionate”. This means it should only be used for the stated purposes, unless it has been made clear at the outset that the gathering of the CCTV data may be used for other purposes-for example investigating offences or prosecuting offenders or disciplinary procedures.
The expanded use of CCTV systems has society-wide implications. Unless such systems are used with proper care and consideration, they can give rise to concern that the individual’s “private space” is being unreasonably eroded.
Recognisable images captured by CCTV systems are “personal data”. They are therefore subject to the provisions of the Data Protection Acts.
Generally, most employers will have a CCTV policy in place in order to protect staff, customers, suppliers, company property, the premises in order to ensure the health and safety of all stakeholders and to ensure that all company policies are adhered to at all times.
Cameras placed so as to record external areas should be positioned in such a way as to prevent or minimise recording of passers-by or of another person’s private property.
Key Considerations for Employers
Effective and robust data protection policies and procedures in relation to employees include:
clearly defining the purpose for installing CCTV cameras and that there is a lawful basis for this in accordance with Article 6 of the GDPR;
communicating and informing employees and/or other data subjects on how CCTV footage may be used. Employers should ensure that employees have access to the data protection policies and re-circulate these policies where any further amendments have been made. In addition to including this information in the data protection policy and privacy statement, the employer should ensure that appropriate signage is displayed which indicates the purpose of the CCTV footage;
linking policies in with each other in a consistent manner e.g. the data protection policy and the disciplinary policy should each contain a reference to the other where it is the case that CCTV footage can be used in disciplinary matters.
Using a CCTV system to constantly monitor employees is highly intrusive and would need to be justified by reference to special circumstances. If the monitoring is for health and safety reasons an employer would need to demonstrate that the installation of CCTV was proportionate in addressing health and safety issues that had arisen prior to the installation of the system.
The Office of the Data Commissioner has stated that a balance must be struck between the privacy considerations of the individual (employee) and the legitimate interests of an organisation when using CCTV in the workplace. CCTV may be used legitimately under the Data Protection Acts for security related purposes in certain circumstances but any use beyond this would need to be fully justifiable and evidence-based with a very high threshold for such evidence.
The use of CCTV in disciplinary matters
The use of CCTV in disciplinary matters is inadmissible unless there are exceptional or special circumstances justifying the surveillance. The employee should be notified in advance of the presence of the cameras and that the images may be used in disciplinary proceedings.
Any use of CCTV must be proportionate and justifiably necessary.
Normally an employer can easily justify the use of CCTV for security reasons and to prevent loss of stock/theft, and so forth. However, attendance, misconduct, and disciplinary issues are less straightforward.
In a 2014 case Karen Deegan v Dunnes Stores  the employee was awarded €9,300 for her unfair dismissal as the employer relied on CCTV footage to find her guilty of misconduct in circumstances where the employee was unaware of the CCTV cameras.
However, the Circuit Court later overturned this decision when Dunnes Stores appealed the decision and the Judge found that there were substantial grounds which justified the employer’s decision.
Employees do have personal privacy rights when they go to work and CCTV monitoring must be carried out with regard to the basic data protection principles of transparency and proportionality. Thus, the employer must alert the employee to the use of CCTV and the purpose of the monitoring and special circumstances would need to exist if the employer wants to monitor attendance or staff conduct.
NB – This is a guide for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have an issue requiring legal advice, please contact any of the team at Nolan Farrell & Goff, whose numbers can be found on our website, www.nfg.ie