The benefits – and potential risks – of using CCTV in the workplace

Amanda Finn provides guidance for employers on whether installing surveillance cameras to monitor staff activity is legal

The benefits – and potential risks – of using CCTV in the workplace

There are estimated to be 5.2 million CCTV cameras in the UK – one for every 13 people – and 96 per cent are operated by businesses and individuals.

CCTV in the workplace can help to deter and reduce crime and provide a more secure environment for employees, but it is also important that employers take into account both an individual’s right to privacy and where CCTV can and can’t be used in the workplace.

Guidance on the use of CCTV in the workplace from The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) says it should be used “when necessary to meet a pressing need”, which could include issues of:

  • staff security;

  • prevention of theft and/or vandalism;

  • monitoring employee performance and workplace efficiency;

  • monitoring compliance with health and safety policies and procedures.

For monitoring use to be proportionate, prior to its installation, employers should carry out a privacy impact assessment to consider the effect that the monitoring would have on the individuals’ right to privacy. The business should also consider whether there might be other options to meet the same need, which are less intrusive than CCTV.

Both employees and visitors to the workplace should be informed that recording is taking place, usually by displaying clear signage, and CCTV should be covered in your employee privacy notice. This notice should also include details about why the recording is taking place and how long it will be kept. Footage should be deleted after this period.

Footage and the recording equipment should also be kept secure and access to it limited to authorised employees. Where CCTV uses wireless networks, the ICO recommends signals are encrypted to prevent them from being hacked.

Employees and visitors to the workplace have the right to make a data subject access request to a business and be given access to CCTV footage on which they appear. The business has a month to respond to this request and must also document all requests for access and when it was granted, or if it was refused, the reason for this.

Before any CCTV footage is released, the business also needs to consider privacy considerations and whether other individuals in the footage need to be blurred to obscure their identity.

Covert recording can rarely be justified by a business, unless there is a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity or malpractice taking place. Before covert recording takes place, a privacy impact assessment should be carried out to ensure it is both necessary and proportionate. Recording can only take place for as long as is necessary and shouldn’t take place in areas where a genuine and reasonable expectation of privacy exists, such as toilets or changing areas.

Where covert CCTV has been set up to monitor for criminal activity, it cannot then be used for other purposes, for example to monitor employee performance.

Amanda Finn is a partner at Gullands