Thefts of products, till shortfalls, incidents between staff and concerns about quality are just some of the reasons salon owners introduce CCTV. However, there are several legal requirements employers must meet to comply not only with the Data Protection Act but potentially also the Human Rights Act. There are always staff who refer to their human rights when CCTV is introduced but the legislation doesn’t prevent monitoring. There are limitations, however, such as secretly installing cameras in treatment areas or toilets.
In law, there is an expectation of mutual trust between employer and employees. In addition, employees have basic human rights at work, so try to balance your need to monitor your business with the employees’ reasonable expectation of some privacy. So, typically you monitor the workplace rather than individuals. It is always worth reminding staff that the cameras offer them some protection if an incident occurs.
Before CCTV is introduced, tell staff of the intention and the reason for it. Consider adding a paragraph to your workplace rules and ensure staff know the footage could be used for disciplinary purposes. If the CCTV is in reception, inform clients via clear, readable signs.
A basic security system is unlikely to be impacted by the Data Protection Act, but it would be different if the CCTV was used specifically to monitor employees. In such cases, the data captured must be processed “lawfully and fairly”, which means giving employees adequate information about who will be processing it and how it will be stored.
It’s uncommon for employers to carry out covert monitoring. There might be exceptions if there are thefts or criminal activities taking place and the secret monitoring is part of a specific fact-finding exercise, but it shouldn’t be routinely undertaken.
Sometimes the normal CCTV monitoring might pick up other incidents that result in disciplinary investigations; for example a physical assault, theft, or someone leaving early. Provided you have a legitimate business reason for the recording and staff are aware they are being recorded you should be on safe ground.
In your contract, you should have a clause giving you a “right of search”. You might use this in conjunction with CCTV. For example, having been aware of thefts, when you spot someone on CCTV acting suspiciously, you may want to carry out a bag search. While it’s sensitive, it is legal if you have a contractual right to do so.
In my experience, having seen the CCTV, employees often resign, as it’s hard to dispute the evidence.
In 2018, there have already been two important decisions by the European Court of Human Rights. The first concluded that it was a breach of two professors’ privacy rights to install surveillance cameras in student auditoriums for the purpose of protecting property and people, and monitoring teaching.
The European Court of Human Rights said that “private life” may include professional activities taking place in a public context (the auditorium), and the employer did not have sufficient justification for the monitoring as there was no evidence that properly or people were at risk.
In the second case, the court found that the use of hidden video cameras in a Spanish supermarket to monitor suspected thefts by employees violated their privacy rights as the employer had not told staff about the cameras and all staff were monitored without time limit.
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