CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) systems are widely used in businesses as a security measure to monitor premises and protect assets. While these systems can serve as effective tools in reducing crime, they can also raise privacy concerns, especially when they are used to monitor staff.

Knowing the legalities around CCTV usage in the workplace can be a minefield, especially in the current climate, with data privacy being a top concern. Unsurprisingly, people are beginning to question the use of surveillance, with people in London being surveilled by CCTV on average 300 times a day. When we go for a walk or enter a shared space or building, it is almost certain that a surveillance camera in the area will capture our movements. Whilst overuse should be avoided, and not every business needs CCTV, the benefits of having it in place should not be denied.

Why should CCTV be installed in the workplace?

There are various reasons why CCTV can be necessary for the functioning of a business. Having security cameras helps keep staff and business property safe. Keeping video records of your staff's movements within the workplace can not only help ensure employees are working and not leaving their posts but also helps keep a record of what has happened in case an incident occurs. This helps the employee and the business see where the fault may lie, if it is the individual's human error or the business's. More so, if employees work in a profession which deals directly with the public, like working in a bar or a hospital, on-person body cameras can reduce abusive behaviour and deter violence. This is also true for taxi drivers who use personal cameras or dash cams, which can help capture wrongdoing when a staff member is alone and more vulnerable.

Legal considerations

The legality of monitoring staff using CCTV varies from country to country and even state to state. However, it is generally permitted in most places if certain conditions are met. These conditions may include:

Legitimate purpose: Employers must have a legitimate reason for using CCTV, such as preventing theft, ensuring the safety of employees, or monitoring productivity. Using CCTV solely to spy on employees is not considered legitimate.

Transparency: Employers should inform employees that they are being monitored and explain the purpose of the surveillance. This can be done through clear signage, written policies, or staff training.

Proportionality: The use of CCTV should be proportionate to the risk being addressed. This means that the surveillance should not be overly intrusive and should only cover areas where there is a legitimate need for monitoring.

Data protection: Employers must comply with data protection laws and regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union. This includes ensuring that the collected data is stored securely, is only used for its intended purpose, and is not retained for longer than necessary.

Ethical considerations

Aside from the legal aspects, employers should also consider the ethical implications of using CCTV to monitor staff. Key ethical considerations include:

Privacy: While employees may have a reduced expectation of privacy in the workplace, they still have the right to privacy in certain areas, such as restrooms or changing rooms. Employers must respect these boundaries and not use CCTV in these areas.

Trust: Excessive surveillance can damage the trust between employers and employees. Employers should strike a balance between the need for monitoring and the desire to maintain a positive working environment.

Consent: Employees should be given the opportunity to express their concerns about the use of CCTV and, if possible, provide input on the implementation of the system.

Are CCTV Security Cameras illegal?

It is only illegal to watch staff through security cameras if they are unaware they are being filmed or if the cameras are in private areas. Employees must be made aware if CCTV is being brought into a business or is currently installed. Signs are legally required to be erected, clearly indicating employees are being recorded. To maintain good staff relations and be a trusted employer, we strongly recommend talking to staff and helping them understand why the business uses CCTV. For CCTV to be used in the UK, businesses must comply with the following:

  • * Employees must be aware CCTV is in place or being brought in.
  • * Employees should be told why CCTV is in place.
  • * If an employee requests footage, this should be provided within one month.
  • * The Information Commissioner’s Office should be notified of the CCTV instalment.
  • * If CCTV was installed to deter crime, it should not be used to monitor the movement of employees.

While watching your staff on CCTV is not inherently illegal, employers must follow specific legal and ethical guidelines to ensure that they are not violating their employees' privacy rights. By adhering to these guidelines and fostering open communication, employers can use CCTV systems responsibly and effectively without compromising their staff's trust and well-being. If you are sensible with your camera to use and ensure your employees are comfortable, there is no reason your company can not enjoy the benefits of CCTV cameras.