• Leah Norman

Workplace Surveillance (including GPS and other tracking devices)

As an employer, you may wish to monitor or record your employees while at work, whether for safety, security, or other reasons.


Most workplaces utilise some form of surveillance, the most obvious of which is monitoring the use of email and internet. Surveillance can also extend to the use of GPS tracking in company vehicles or the use of location services in devices, like mobile phones or tablets. The use of GPS trackers in vehicles and devices is most common in roles where your employees work away from a desk, at multiple different locations throughout the day – like couriers or delivery drivers, tradespersons or travelling salespersons.

In NZ, as with other forms of workplace surveillance, GPS tracking is governed by the Privacy Act 1993 (expected to updated later this year). Also, it is important to note that any recordings of employees, (and in some instances their geographical locations) while at work will constitute “personal information” of the employee, and as such employee monitoring continues to receive scrutiny from the Privacy Commissioner, and can result in a range of issues for employers, including a finding that the monitoring has breached their employees privacy, or that they can not rely on recorded footage in disciplinary or other processes.


Whilst the reasons your wishing to implement GPS tracking and/or video surveillance will often be legitimate, such as for safety reasons, it pays to be aware that some employees can often be wary about technology which tracks and records their location. In order to comply with the Information Privacy Principles (IPPs) set out in the Act, best practice requires employers to notify employees about the surveillance and having a clear notice on the vehicle or device that it is the subject of tracking.


To address employee concerns, it is important that you are upfront about:

  • How and what data is collected – for example GPS tracking devices affixed to vehicles send the last known address and speed of that vehicle. Similarly, when location services are activated on a device the location of the person holding that device can be ascertained. If video surveillance; what areas have cameras and is audio recorded?

  • The reasons for GPS tracking or other surveillance – for example, GPS may be used for safety reasons where employees have to travel to remote places, or to determine travel times and costs. Similarly, for video surveillance to cover cash registers etc.

  • How the data will be used – for example, the data may be used to determine the efficiency of certain tasks.

This should be outlined to employees in the notice that the surveillance will be carried out or in a workplace surveillance policy. The policy should also state that unauthorised tampering or interfering with GPS tracking or other surveillance devices can result in disciplinary action, including termination of employment.


With that finding in mind, it is still possible to monitor employees while they are at work – provided the IPPs are fully complied with.


So here are our tips for “how to” record employees while at work;

In particular, before undertaking any employee monitoring (including having cameras or audio recording in the workplace) you must:

  • Have a lawful purpose for collecting the employees personal information which is connected with a function or activity of your business;

  • Only collect information that is necessary for that lawful purpose;

  • Make employees aware that their personal information is being collected, the purpose for which the information is being collected, and the intended recipients of that information (we strongly recommend having a policy which outlines this information to your employees);

  • Not collect information by means that are unlawful, unfair, or unreasonably intrusive to the employee;

  • Ensure the recordings / personal information is stored safely and securely, for no longer than is necessary;

  • Ensure employees are aware that the information is being stored, have access to, and can correct, that information if required; and

  • Only use, or disclose, the personal information for the purposes for which it was collected – this often catches employers out when they attempt to use footage collected for health and safety or security purposes in a disciplinary process.

Essentially, the importance of having cameras operating in the workplace must be balanced against your employees right to maintain a reasonable degree of privacy while they are at work. You should keep this in mind before you decide to operate cameras, GPS or other sorts of monitoring devices in the workplace.


Whilst workplace surveillance, be it through GPS or other devices, maybe useful tools for employers, however careful thought should be given to:

  1. the purpose of the collecting the information;

  2. clearly communicating with employees about the collection and use of the data; and,

  3. the limitations that the data may provide in disciplinary matters.

We strongly recommend obtaining professional advice before undertaking any employee monitoring, and before relying on any footage taken of an employee while at work in disciplinary or other processes.


Disclaimer

This article, and any information contained on our website is necessarily brief and general in nature, and should not be substituted for professional advice. Yellow Consulting does not accept liability for any loss or damage arising from reliance on the content of this blog, or from links on this website to any external website. You should always seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters addressed.