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QLD Viewing Live Camera Footage from Home - Legal?

Discussion in 'Employment Law Forum' started by Makka, 2 July 2015.

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  1. Makka

    Makka Active Member

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    Hi,

    I have a friend that works in retail, the store has recently been purchased by a new owner but is franchise, I don't mind revealing that it is IGA. Since the new owner has taken over there have been a number of questionable changes, such as rehiring all staff on new contracts forcing them into casual positions, and providing minimal hours so that most of the staff quit, making room for family members as new full time employees. I believe that this is legal, although immoral but I could be wrong.

    The most questionable practice however, is the instillation of new video surveillance. This surveillance can be accessed by the owner from home. A girl was recently fired for drinking from a water bottle in view of a customer. My friend now fears for her job and is currently looking for a new one.

    Is this practice of remote surveillance legal? does it breach personal information laws?

    I currently work in a large organisation and have asked HR about it, but they are also unsure as QLD law around this seems to be weak at best. Can anyone give me advice to pass on? my friend seems content to look for a new job but I find this practice disgusting and the owner despicable.
     
  2. AnnaLJ

    AnnaLJ Well-Known Member

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    Hi Makka

    Do you happen to know if the new owner gave written notice to its employees that it would be installing surveillance cameras in the workplace?

    While I don't believe there is specific legislation relating to workplace surveillance in QLD (there is in NSW and Vic), it could be considered to be a "workplace change" in the federal Fair Work Act and require consultation with the affected employees. 'Consultation' would require proper notice that the change is to occur.

    If this notice has not happened and someone was disciplined on the basis of footage recorded, then those employees may have recourse under the Act (unfair dismissal etc).

    You could go to Welcome to the Fair Work Ombudsman website if you would like to find more information on this or to put your friend in contact with Fair Work.

    Further, there could also be issues if any of the cameras are recording images from private areas such as change areas, bathrooms etc. Do you know if this is the case?

    Anna
     
  3. Makka

    Makka Active Member

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    Thank you for your response Anna,

    There was a camera system in place that the owner has replaced with a newer system. It was closed and was only viewed in the event of an incident. Employees were not notified of the new system and were not told it was being watched from home. The girl that was fired was fired due to the camera surveillance.

    It is also important to note that staff were given a document to sign stating that they understood that they were under new contracts but the contracts were never sent to staff nor did staff actually sign an individual contract.
     
  4. Ivy

    Ivy Well-Known Member

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    Hi Makka,

    The staff need to contact the Fair Work ombudsman ASAP.
    It sounds as though there are multiple potential breaches of the Fair Work Act in relation to the procedure by which the employees were transferred to the new employer.

    Firstly, firing someone for drinking water in front of a customer is unlikely to be legitimate grounds for a dismissal. Genuine grounds for dismissal are misconduct, illegal acts etc- it's difficult to see how the act of that employee fit the bill. Applications for unfair dismissal need to be made within 21 days.

    Secondly, new employers generally have to recognise and uphold many of the rights of the employees under their previous contracts. If the new employer doesn't want to uphold their rights (for example recognising their period of service, leave etc), they need to notify the employees in writing before the transfer of business goes ahead (and they can only do this if they aren't an associated entity- for e.g. a parent or subsidiary company). This gives employees a chance to apply to take leave, to apply for a redundancy etc from their old employer.

    Thirdly, there are certain procedures that need to take place before an employment contract can be changed. Again, if the employer didn't want to recognise the contracts of the employees, they needed to notify them in writing beforehand. Contracts generally can't be changed unilaterally without the consent of the employee.

    I am not sure about laws surrounding surveillance of employees.

    However overall, there are multiple potential issues and complicated facts in this situation. Your friend should call Fair Work straight away.
     
    Tim W likes this.

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