find the latest legal job
Corporate and Commercial Partner
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: Adelaide SA 5000
· Adelaide CBD · Join a leading Adelaide commercial law firm
View details
Freelance Project Finance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Australia
· Vario are looking for freelance lawyers with experience in project finance ideally within the renewable energy sector
View details
Vario Freelance Lawyers
Category: Construction Law | Location: All Australia
· We are looking for lawyers who appreciate the endless possibilities that a freelance career can offer.
View details
Freelance Construction Lawyers
Category: Construction Law | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· We are looking for construction lawyers who appreciate the endless possibilities that a freelance career can offer.
View details
Banking Associate - 1-6PQE - Allen & Overy
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: United Kingdom
· Banking Associate - 1-6 PQE - Allen & Overy
View details
Employee surveillance regulation inconsistent across Australia

Employee surveillance regulation inconsistent across Australia

peter.leonard

With an increasing number of companies looking to track individual employee movements, Australia’s patchy legislation raises issues, according to one partner.

Concerns were raised this week over the use of employee tracking, after the UK’s Daily Telegraph installed workplace monitors to determine when employees were sitting at their desks.

The wireless motion detectors, a product of company OccupEye, were swiftly removed following complaints by unions and staff.

Speaking with Lawyers Weekly, Gilbert + Tobin partner Peter Leonard said this was “not an uncommon story” as technology has enabled businesses to monitor employees more closely.

Employee monitoring now comes in many forms, ranging from optical surveillance to email and data surveillance, according to Mr Leonard.

“I think the unfamiliar aspect of this now is the range of technologies that enable an employer to track how and when an employee moves,” he said.

“Many employees consider that [it] is an invasion of privacy, but in fact in Australia there are relatively few states that have comprehensive regulation of workplace surveillance.”

Mr Leonard said Victoria’s laws, in particular, could expose employees to this kind of surveillance at work.

Under Victoria’s Surveillance Devices Act 1999, a tracking device is an electronic device with the primary purpose of determining the geographical location of a person or object.

If an Australian company, like the Daily Telegraph, claimed they had install devices as an environmental measure to make the building energy efficient rather than a proxy for employee productivity, then that action would be entirely legal, according to Mr Leonard.

Both NSW and the ACT have tighter regulation around tracking devices, but other states and territories in Australia do not have similar laws.

“It's one of those classic situations in Australia, where we don't have consistent legislation Australia-wide,” he said.

The Australian Law Reform Commission called for uniform national laws on surveillance devices in the workplace in its June 2014 report of Serious Invasions of Privacy in the Digital Era.

“But there's been no move by the Federal Government to attempt to introduce uniform legislation,” said Mr Leonard.

This is of particular concern as in some states employers are permitted to monitor mobile phone use in the workplace, even if that phone is the private property of the employee and they are working from home, according to Mr Leonard.

Employers in NSW would have to give notice to staff that the surveillance was occurring first, but in Victoria there would be no obligation to alert employees.

This is, however, difficult for employers to achieve as carriers do not give out phone data, Mr Leonard added.

Tracking lawyers?

Companies, including law firms, are interested in tracking employees for a range of reasons, Mr Leonard continues.

For instance, courier companies have a legitimate business interest in knowing the exact location of truck drivers for scheduling purposes.

For law firms, surveillance of email communications on a company email account where there could be liability control concerns, client confidentiality concerns, would make sense to lawyers, Mr Leonard explained.

“But if the surveillance is principally for the purpose of working out whether somebody is sitting at their desk or not, and it is specific to particular individuals rather than just looking at general patterns of movements on non-identified individuals, I think that would be a level of surveillance that many lawyers would regard as unreasonable,” said Mr Leonard.

“By its nature, law firms complain that lawyers aren't collaborative enough and the best way to be collaborative, often, is to get off your backside and walk over to somebody else's desk,” he continued.

“There is a question as to whether you are measuring the right thing.”

Like this story? Read more:

Book commemorates diamond milestone for WA law society

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending


Employee surveillance regulation inconsistent across Australia
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Jan 23 2018
Disrupting traditional archiving and storage methods
Promoted by Fileman TRENDS COME and go but technology and its disruption to the legal landscape h...
Scales of Justice
Jan 23 2018
WA to close ‘legal loophole’ on gender reassignment laws
Laws in Western Australia will soon change to permit married people to undergo gender reassignment s...
Lawyers take to Twitter to share career stories
Jan 22 2018
Lawyers take to Twitter to share career stories
The #mypathtolaw hashtag has been embraced by legal eagles to swap stories with the Twitter communit...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...