Closed-circuit television (CCTV) may at first appear to be a simple solution to security issues, but employers are required to navigate a number of legal requirements when installing these systems. Val Moore takes a close look at the obligations and implications surrounding CCTV use.

It should be noted that this article assumes the use of such a system on private property only. There are additional requirements if public places are to be monitored.

The first obligation to employers seeking to install a surveillance system is to ensure that their system has a legitimate purpose and that the coverage it provides is proportionate to that purpose, as everyone has a right to privacy. Also, employers must ensure that there is no surveillance of the public without their consent. In practice, this often means placing signs to warn people that they are being monitored by CCTV.

Benefits of CCTV systems

There are many potential benefits to installing a CCTV system, including the following.

  • Security for staff, parents and children

  • Access control assistance.

  • Deterrence.

  • Surveillance.

  • Alarm evaluation.

  • Protection against fraudulent insurance claims.

  • Legally admissible video evidence.

Data protection

Most uses of CCTV are covered by the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA).The Act sets rules which CCTV operators must follow if they gather, store and release CCTV images of individuals. Further information on Data Protection can be found as part of your Croner-I product. The Data Protection Act itself can be accessed via gov.uk.

To comply with the DPA, employers must:

  • be registered with the Information Commissioner

  • display signs to highlight the use of CCTV on the premises

  • only use CCTV in areas where you would normally expect privacy, such as changing rooms or toilets, in exceptional circumstances

  • not record conversations between members of the public, unless exempt

  • ensure someone in the organisation is responsible for the CCTV images

  • have clear procedures on how to use the system, when to disclose images, and a policy on how long images will be retained for

  • regularly check procedures are being followed

  • ensure that the CCTV equipment works properly.

Assessment

When considering the use of CCTV, a security assessment of the site and an impact assessment of using a surveillance system will need to be carried out. CCTV alone is not a complete solution to a security problem, and a security assessment should be carried out to decide whether such a system is necessary and proportionate to the problem.

The following should be considered.

  • Who will be using the CCTV images and who will take legal responsibility under the DPA 1998?

  • What are the benefits of using CCTV? Does its use address a clear need?

  • Can CCTV technology solve the problem, or are there other solutions, such as better lighting, that can deliver the same benefits?

  • Is it necessary to take images that can identify individuals?

  • Has there been a consultation with those people who will be under surveillance, and has every effort been taken to minimise intrusion on privacy?

Policies and procedures

When purchasing and installing a new CCTV system, clear policies and procedures need to be drawn up to cover the following points.

  • Details of the organisation’s use of CCTV, including the purpose of using the system.

  • How images will be stored, used and destroyed.

  • Justification that the information recorded is adequate, relevant and does not exceed what is necessary.

  • Maintenance and upkeep of the system.

  • How CCTV is integrated into the security system.

  • How CCTV will be used by the staff operating the system.

  • What the protocol is should an incident be recorded.

  • How the staff involved in the use of CCTV will be vetted.

Location of cameras

Under the Information Commissioner’s Office’s CCTV Code of Practice, it is vital that the location of permanent and movable cameras is considered carefully to achieve the purpose for which CCTV is used.

Both permanent and movable cameras should be sited and image capture restricted to ensure that they do not view areas that are not of interest and are not intended to be the subject of surveillance, such as an individual’s private property. The following should be considered.

  • Only the relevant areas should be viewed.

  • CCTV footage should only be taken at appropriate times.

  • Technology should only be used to take images when needed — for example, only taking footage of movement in an area.

  • Images need to be of the appropriate quality.

Employment issues

It is important for providers to distinguish between CCTV surveillance for security purposes, and the use of such a system to monitor staff behaviour and their performance. CCTV should generally not be used to monitor the performance of workers, but application to staff may be appropriate in some cases, such as if criminal behavior is suspected. Any use of CCTV to monitor staff should be justified as part of the impact assessment. In some instances, better training or greater supervision would be a more appropriate solution. Staff should be informed when they are being monitored.

Provided that employees have been informed of the CCTV surveillance and do not object, it is assumed that they have waived their right to object. However, an employee who feels that they are being singled out for CCTV surveillance may resign and claim constructive dismissal on the grounds of breach of implied duty of trust and confidence owed by the employer.

Covert monitoring

In exceptional circumstances, covert monitoring may be used as part of a specific investigation. Before approving covert monitoring, the following points should be considered.

  • Is this an exceptional circumstance and is there a reason to suspect criminal activity or equivalent malpractice?

  • Will the cameras be used only for a specific investigation and will they be removed once the investigation is complete?

  • Would it prejudice the investigation to tell workers that cameras are being used?

  • Has the intrusion on innocent workers been taken into account?

  • Has the decision been taken by senior management?

Installation of a suitable system

If it is determined that a CCTV system is necessary, the technical specifications for the system should then be identified. This is probably best discussed with professionals in the field. Details of independent security consultants can be obtained from the Association of Security Consultants.

The installation of CCTV equipment by contractors falls under the boundaries of the term “construction” as set out in the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. Therefore, it is the duty of the provision to check the competency of the system installers and to ensure that, once installed, a camera mounting will not fall and injure an employee or a passer-by.

Providers should therefore consider closely if there is a need for CCTV cameras and, if so, ensure their proper usage.

Last reviewed 18 March 2015