Case law: Employer’s covert surveillance of employees did not breach their human rights
Employers considering covert monitoring of staff at work must ensure they can show their actions strike a fair balance between their rights and those of their staff, to avoid breaching their employees’ rights to privacy under human rights law.
This update was published in Legal Alert - December 2019
Legal Alert is a monthly checklist from Atom Content Marketing highlighting new and pending laws, regulations, codes of practice and rulings that could have an impact on your business.
A Spanish supermarket told workers about cameras it had installed, purportedly to detect theft by customers. However, as well as visible cameras the supermarket did not tell them about hidden cameras positioned to detect thefts by staff. Footage from the hidden cameras showed several employees stealing and they were dismissed. They claimed the secret surveillance by their employer breached their right to privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights rejected their claim. It ruled that employees working on a supermarket floor only had a limited right to privacy while there, and the steps the employer had taken to restrict circulation of the footage meant a fair balance had been struck between the employer’s rights and those of its employees. The intrusion was proportionate - even taking into account that the employer’s actions were based on a general suspicion of all staff and were not time-limited, taking place during all working hours and over many weeks.
- Organisations considering covert monitoring of staff should ensure they can show their actions strike a fair balance between their rights and those of their staff, to avoid breaching employees’ rights to privacy under human rights law.
Case law: Lopez Ribalda & Ors v Spain, ECtHR (Applications nos. 1874/13 and 8567/13)
Please note: An article published in the February 2018 edition of Legal Alert covered this case at an earlier stage in the legal process.
Disclaimer: This article from Atom Content Marketing is for general guidance only, for businesses in the United Kingdom governed by the laws of England. Atom Content Marketing, expert contributors and ICAEW (as distributor) disclaim all liability for any errors or omissions.
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