Workplace surveillance can have many benefits, both for employers and staff, but it can be a tricky issue to navigate. As an employer, you naturally want to protect the business and keep a close eye on its day-to-day running, but you don’t want to upset anyone. The last thing you want to do is to make your employees feel that you don’t trust them or to breach any privacy laws.

Why carry out workplace surveillance in the first place?

There are quite a few reasons why workplace surveillance can be worth doing, even if there are some employee and legal issues to be worked out. For example, it allows employers to:

  • Prevent or deter crime, theft or misconduct
  • Ensure company policies are not broken
  • Safeguard employees and protect members of the public
  • Ensure a high quality of customer service
  • Train staff and improve business processes and procedures
  • Assess productivity and efficiency
  • Comply with legal and regulatory responsibilities

The rules

Before you start installing surveillance equipment, it's very important to get clued up on what you are and aren't allowed to do. The first thing to remember is that you can’t place surveillance cameras anywhere that there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as changing rooms, toilets and bathrooms. It is also your responsibility to keep any footage you record safe, so you can’t share it online, sell or give it to a third party.

You must have a legitimate reason for using surveillance equipment, such as security concerns or safeguarding employees, and you can only use the footage for that intended purpose. Lastly, it is recommended to carry out an impact assessment, looking at how the use of cameras may adversely affect employees. If a complaint is ever made, you will have made sure that you covered all bases when considering employee needs.

Keeping your staff on-side

You may legally be allowed to film employees while at work, as long as you follow all of the rules, but this doesn't necessarily mean that your staff will be happy about it. To keep the trust between yourself and your employees, it's crucial to keep everyone on-side. The best way to do this is to be up-front and honest about the use of surveillance equipment. Hold a meeting in which you explain all of the reasons why workplace surveillance is needed, and ensure that you highlight the benefits to employees (i.e. safeguarding them while at work).

With careful wording and plenty of sensitivity, you can explain all of your reasoning to your team. Hopefully, they will appreciate your honesty and the fact that you are taking the time to inform them of what’s going on. It’s also a very good idea to put a policy in place for workplace monitoring, one that you can explain to new recruits when they start. This makes it less of a change and more of a standard workplace policy that gradually, everyone will come to accept.

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