CCTV and Audio Recording at My Office: A Case Study
Bill Sley has worked in the same office for almost thirty years. Two months ago, the owner of the business appointed a new manager.
The manager was intent on making changes. This in itself didn’t bother Bill, but some of the signs of change certainly did.
New Manager“I expected the new manager, Ken, to make his mark on the office. Change was inevitable, and in my view much needed. Our computer system, for instance, was old. So when Ken said he was introducing the latest technology, I was pleased.
Weekend Installation“The new computers arrived over the course of a weekend. So far, so good. Then one of my colleagues nudged me and pointed to the ceiling. There in the corner was a CCTV camera.
“Ken had mentioned nothing about this. I decided to have a wander round the office, including the kitchen areas and the toilets. I’m glad to say there wasn’t a camera visible in the toilets, but there were three other cameras in the main office, one at the reception desk, and two in the kitchen area.
Upsetting“I found the presence of these cameras upsetting because they infringed staff privacy. My colleagues felt the same.
“It appeared as though Ken planned to watch our every move during the day. Yet we didn’t handle valuables, and there was nothing much to steal apart from the usual office pens, paper, and so on. We couldn’t work out what he was up to.
“Because I’d worked in the office longer than anyone else, I went to see Ken. I asked him about the cameras, and he was offhand at first. He then sensed I wasn’t about to go away, so he told me why he’d installed them.
“Apparently, he felt he had a right to use CCTV to ‘keep an eye on his staff’. He also said, just as I was leaving his office, that he’d also be monitoring phone calls ‘for business purposes’.
The Law And Employee Rights“I thought Ken’s explanations were vague. Plus I was annoyed he hadn’t spoken about installing CCTV and audio checks when he’d talked about the new computer equipment.
“That night, I rang my brother-in-law, Greg. He works for a law firm, and I wanted to get his take on Ken’s actions. Greg said he’d get back to me.
“The next day, Greg contacted me at work. He had a lot to say, and what it boiled down to was as follows.
“There are four laws that can apply to the issue of staff monitoring. These are the Human Rights Act, the Data Protection Act, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, and the Lawful Business Practice Regulations.
“Between them, these laws oblige employers to ensure staff monitoring is justified and meets a particular problem. Employers must also tell staff what’s going on.
“The laws go on to say what employers cannot do. They must not record phone calls unnecessarily; use continuous video recording unless it relates to security; and use CCTV in a private place such a staff kitchen area.
“I told Greg that I couldn’t see how Ken’s use of CCTV and audio recording was following the law. We’d never had a problem that warranted CCTV spying on us. And because we mainly used the phones for calls to other parts of the business, call monitoring seemed to serve no purpose.
Guidance“At this point, I must say I was lucky to have Greg on hand. He sent me links to various websites. Here I was able to download guidance about monitoring staff, and employers’ use of CCTV and audio recordings.
“I printed off several website pages, and asked Ken if I could make an appointment to see him. He told me to come to his office straightaway.
“I gave Ken the printouts and explained my concerns. I also asked him if he wouldn’t mind telling staff why he felt justified in using CCTV and audio recordings.
Climb Down“The end result was that Ken climbed down. He began by introducing an office policy about monitoring. He discussed this with staff first, and even adjusted it as a result of feedback.
“Ken then removed the CCTV apart from a camera at the reception desk for security purposes. He also spelled out in the policy that there would be no audio recording of phone calls.
“I think Ken’s making an effort. No one’s denying his right to keep an eye on things in the office. But he has to respect staff privacy if we’re to feel trusted. Anyway, everyone in the office is now a lot more relaxed.”