I recently returned to work after being furloughed, but my employer is closely monitoring all staff through CCTV and conducting searches. It feels like they’re trying to intimidate us or even find reasons to dismiss us. What can we do?
I’m sorry to hear about your situation. Any surveillance or monitoring that an employer carries out should be detailed as a procedure in your contract or in the employee handbook.
These should explain how you could be monitored and give the reason(s) why they would do so. Employers are heavily restricted in terms of when they can monitor without your knowledge or permission, and they must have a genuine and valid reason for doing so.
This could be a situation where the employer needs to access information for a specific investigation that would be compromised if you knew about it and needs to be a serious investigation (e.g., into criminal activities or serious malpractice). This kind of monitoring must end after the investigation is complete.
CCTV under normal circumstances
CCTV can provide evidence that an employer may need if something goes wrong, however, under normal circumstances the employer must adhere to certain restrictions.
Staff must be made aware of the CCTV camera(s) and the reason(s) for use, with signs displayed to make clear where the cameras are, and the purpose explained on the sign.
Contact details should also be displayed on the sign (e.g., a website address, phone number and email address), with the camera not being used for any other reason that the one stated.
An employer must establish if you or your belongings will be subject to searches in your contract or a staff handbook. The employer can only conduct these searches for a work-related reason that is warranted given the circumstances.
When the searches are done, they must respect your privacy and dignity. They should be as private as reasonably possible, carried out by someone of the same sex as you and completed in front of a witness.
So, what can I do?
It would be useful for you to keep a note of your concerns, including dates and times of any incidents, and raise this in writing with your employer.
If you are unhappy with how you have been monitored, you should speak to your employer informally in the first instance.
This did not work - What can I do?
If this does not work, the next step is to use the employer’s grievance procedure to raise your concerns. Your employer’s grievance procedure should be outlined in the employee handbook.
If this does not work, you should seek further advice on the matter.
Constructive dismissal can be used as a last resort if you believe that you can no longer work for the employer due to these issues, but care should be taken to ensure you have a valid claim before leaving your job. Constructive dismissal is where an employer's conduct leaves you no choice but to resign.
This should be a last resort because it is often difficult to prove, and your employer must have fundamentally broken a term in the employment contract.
There are no hard and fast rules about what a 'fundamental' breach is, but it should mean there has been a serious change. This could be from either a single serious episode or a sequence of breaches that amount to something serious.
To be eligible to claim Constructive dismissal you must have been with your employer for 2 years unless the reason is considered to be ‘Automatically Unfair’.
I hope that this helps.