The UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

Can I use CCTV or other forms of surveillance to monitor whether my employees are observing health and safety measures to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic?

In an employment context, any surveillance of an employee needs to be necessary, justified and proportionate. Depending on the specific context of your workplace, there may be a case for you to use overt surveillance systems to monitor staff to ensure essential health and safety measures are followed during the pandemic. This could take the form of installing CCTV cameras, or using an existing system, to confirm staff are performing a particular health and safety task.

As with any use of surveillance, you need to make an assessment of its necessity and proportionality in the circumstances. You should consider what changes are needed to your existing policies and procedures, and how using surveillance technology will help you to achieve your objectives. These considerations may feed into a data protection impact assessment.

Employees may not always expect to be monitored via video surveillance systems in their day-to-day roles. You should therefore consider if there are any less privacy-intrusive ways to achieve the same result. 

If you do use surveillance systems, you should tell staff clearly what you are doing and why. You must ensure that there are notices, or other means, to clearly inform employees about the nature and extent of surveillance and its purpose(s). We recommend telling staff what has changed from your normal policies.

Making a decision as to whether the method of monitoring is justified should involve: 

  • establishing the benefits of the method of monitoring;
  • considering any alternative method of monitoring; and
  • weighing these benefits against any adverse impacts on staff.

There should be regular reviews of the methods in use to ensure they are still achieving the intended purposes.

The Surveillance Camera Commissioner (SCC) and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) have worked together to update the SCC DPIA template, which is specific to surveillance systems. This will assist your thinking before considering the use of thermal cameras or other surveillance.

Can I use recorded CCTV footage to monitor who an individual has been in contact with, if they are subsequently diagnosed with COVID-19 or suffer symptoms?

In the context of COVID-19, we recognise that analysis of CCTV footage could assist with contact tracing and enable others to self-isolate. You should assess whether this is necessary in the specific circumstances and consider speaking to the individuals who would be affected about the use of CCTV and to provide advice on appropriate measures such as self-isolation. Analysis of CCTV footage could reveal sensitive aspects of an individual’s behaviours and relationships. Employees have legitimate expectations that they can keep their personal lives private and that they are entitled to a degree of privacy in the work environment.