Surveillance laws ban Big Brother from Vic workplaces

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Surveillance laws ban Big Brother from Vic workplaces

Victorian employers have from today been banned under the new Surveillance Devices (Workplace Privacy) Act from placing workers under surveillance in workplace toilets, washrooms and change rooms.

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Victorian employers have from today been banned under the new Surveillance Devices (Workplace Privacy) Act from placing workers under surveillance in workplace toilets, washrooms and change rooms.

The acting Minister for Industrial Relations, Daniel Andrews, said technological advances in recent years had provided an unprecedented capacity for employers to keep a close watch on their workers.

'There are limits'

'Employers legitimately have a need to use surveillance in some work areas, but there are limits,' Andrews said. 'Some places are sacrosanct, except under the most exceptional circumstances. Workers should feel confident they can go to the toilet or get changed without worrying that Big Brother may be watching them.'

The Victorian Government enacted the workplace privacy laws after a Victorian Law Reform Commission inquiry found that workplaces were not adequately covered by laws to guide employers and workers on privacy issues.

No cameras in toilets

The legislation prohibits employers placing workers under surveillance in workplace toilets, wash rooms (including shower and bathing facilities), change rooms and lactation rooms. It also bans the material obtained from surveillance from being distributed.

The penalties for both offences are a maximum of two years jail and/or a fine up to $26,429 for individuals, and fines up to $132,144 in any other case.

Uniform privacy laws

Such surveillance would only be permitted when conducted in accordance with a warrant or emergency authorisation, a Commonwealth law, or if required by a liquor licence. Any information obtained can be used only for the authorised purpose.

Australia-wide law being considered

The Standing Committee of Attorneys-General is considering the issue of uniform workplace privacy laws across Australia.

'This is all about striking the right balance,' Andrews said. 'Workers rightly have high expectation of privacy in toilets, wash rooms, change rooms and lactation rooms.

Personal space

'No employer has an unlimited right to intrude upon the personal space of their workers, and surveillance of workers in these areas is an affront to community expectations.'

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