Limited workplace surveillance legislation for Victoria

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Limited workplace surveillance legislation for Victoria

The use of surveillance in workplace toilets, washrooms and change rooms will be banned under legislation introduced into the Victorian Parliament on 8 August.

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The use of surveillance in workplace toilets, washrooms and change rooms will be banned under legislation introduced into the Victorian Parliament on 8 August.

The proposed law is in response to a Victorian Law Commission inquiry last year that put forward 65 recommendations which seek to introduce a regulatory scheme to provide a framework for workplace privacy protection in Victoria.

The Commission recommended that an employer should be prohibited from using any device to observe, listen to, record or monitor the activities, conversations or movement in toilets, change rooms, lactation rooms, washrooms or in any other prescribed circumstances.

Keeping pace with technology

Introducing the legislation, Attorney General Rob Hulls said the Surveillance Devices (Workplace Privacy) Bill aims to improve workplace privacy by stopping employers 'spying' on workers.

'Employers now have access to technology allowing unprecedented access into workers’ lives,' Hulls said.

'The law must keep pace with modern workplace practices which have changed dramatically over time.'

Hulls added that there needs to be 'a balance between workers’ expectation of privacy and employers’ legitimate need to use surveillance in some work areas'.

Under the proposed legislation, surveillance would only be permitted in accordance with a warrant or emergency authorisation, or with a Commonwealth law.

Workplace privacy around Australia

Victoria is only the second jurisdiction in Australia to legislate for workplace privacy/surveillance, following the commencement of NSW laws in October 2005.

The NSW legislation states employees must be told of all surveillance in the workplace except for covert surveillance, for which an employer must have permission from a magistrate (the definition of 'surveillance' covers camera, computer and tracking surveillance). 

It is not an offence for a NSW employer to carry out covert surveillance if its purpose is to ensure the security of the workplace or people in it.

Hulls said Victoria, through the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, is leading a push for uniform workplace privacy laws across Australia.

The Victorian Bill amends the Surveillance Devices Act 1999 and will be available on the State Parliament website soon.

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