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Covert Video Surveillance of Employees

Video surveillance of employees remains a contentious area. The general principle is that there must a genuine and rational business reason for recording employees in the work place, and that they should be given reasonable notification of any surveillance. A failure to follow those general principles risks a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which protects an individual’s right to a private life.

In the case of Lopez Ribalda -v- Spain [2020] IRLR 60, however, the European Court of Human Rights held that not being informed in advance that they would be recorded did not violate the employees' Article 8 right to private life. This was a case in which supermarket employees were recorded working on check outs and CCTV recordings of that area showed that they had stolen from their employer, which led to their dismissals for theft. The ECHR held that employees should have a limited expectation of privacy at work in a public place and found that the employer had taken sufficient steps to confine the circulation of the recordings. It agreed with the decision of the Spanish courts that a fair balance had been struck and the intrusion was proportionate.

It should be noted that the onus remains on the employer to justify any such recordings, and it was significant in this case that this was a public area where CCTV recordings were known to be in operation for the purposes of monitoring the public, albeit not employees.

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