Q: I’m a packer in an export firm. The boss lives abroad and the manager, who is my estranged elder brother, reckoned he found parcels I hadn’t sealed properly. He reported me and the boss told him to give me a warning. When I attended a disciplinary meeting he lied about everything. I was so upset I’m now signed off work with stress. He said he could prove I hadn’t done the job properly because there were CCTV cameras in the warehouse. Could I have them for spying on me with CCTV when they never informed me?
A: Employers have the right to monitor employees’ activities in the workplace in various ways including recording on CCTV cameras. Other acceptable forms of monitoring include opening mail or email addressed to you at work, using automated software to check your emails, checking phone logs or recording phone calls you make, checking which websites you have visited on a work computer, videoing you outside the workplace, getting information about you from credit reference agencies and collecting information through point of sale terminals such as checkout tills.
Data protection law covers information collected in these ways but it does not prevent the collection of information to assist an employer in monitoring the performance of their staff. Before any such monitoring takes place employers should be able to demonstrate clear reasons that justify the monitoring and have carried out an impact assessment to identify any negative effects it may have on staff. They should also consider whether there are any less intrusive, alternative forms of monitoring that would provide the information they require.
Most employers will inform staff of monitoring techniques or the techniques are obvious e.g. CCTV cameras or remote IT control of work stations. Consideration needs to be given to privacy outside of working areas but no formal consent is necessary.