Can you secretly record your staff?

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Covert surveillance may be necessary in a number of workplace situations but that doesn’t give employers free reign to record whoever like for whatever reason, warns one industry lawyer.

“The Privacy Act allows the covert collection of information in limited circumstances,” says Carl Blake, a senior associate with Simpson Grierson.

According to Blake, employers are entitled to record employees without their knowledge if there is reason to believe they are engaged in appropriate or unlawful behaviour. However, employers are still expected to comply with the Privacy Act.

Five guidelines issued by the Privacy Commissioner can help employers test the compliance of any surveillance operations, says Blake.

  • The purpose of the surveillance must be clearly recorded
  • The surveillance must only occur at the periods when it is suspected the employee's misconduct is occurring
  • Ensure the information collected is held securely
  • The information must only be used for the purposes of the employer's investigation
  • Any information collected that is not relevant to the employer's investigation must be disregarded or deleted


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