Weekly dilemma: Use of CCTV

I’m concerned about some stock shortages in my shop and want to introduce CCTV to monitor things. Are there any legal issues that I need to be aware of?

As with any form of employee monitoring, the use of CCTV cameras is only permitted so far as it is necessary and proportionate to achieve a legitimate end. Often, such monitoring is for security reasons, as is the case here, and is likely to be viewed as reasonable and justified. However, under the Data Protection Act 1998, the use of any CCTV equipment should be open and a wise employer will consider the potential implications of risk and reward. Covert recording, in this case, may be the only way of determining the reason for missing stock.

Given your suspicion, and the potential for a crime being committed, it is unlikely that a court or tribunal would consider your use of a CCTV camera to be excessive or unreasonable. However, the use of the camera should be limited to a particular purpose: discovering why stock is going missing and who is responsible. The use of information for any other reason might not be so easily justified.

Your relationship with each of your employees is founded on an implied trust and confidence. Neither you nor they should act in a way that is likely to destroy or seriously damage this trust and confidence. Covert recording of employee activities may, in some circumstances, be construed as distressing the employment relationship, but your reasoning behind taking such action is crucial, along with any evidence to support your belief that stock is going missing. Filming or recording in private places, such as toilets or staff rooms, will almost always be beyond justification. Employees all enjoy the fundamental human right to a private life and any intrusion must be justified.

A wise employer will back up any monitoring of employees with appropriate policies covering such things as email and internet surveillance, video and audio recording and even the use of company vehicles. General employee monitoring should be notified to employees along with the reasoning and extent of such monitoring.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has published guidance on the use of CCTV equipment, which you should consult before implementing your plans.

Kevin Poulter, associate, employment team, Bircham Dyson Bell

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