We often get asked about workplace surveillance and its legalities. And, unfortunately, it’s quite a complicated topic. Most Australia states have their own workplace surveillance laws, which can cover everything from the use of CCTV to the monitoring and recording of phone calls.

Before we go any further, we’d encourage you to speak to both your employer/manager and an employment lawyer if you feel like you’re being monitored illegally.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s jump into it and figure out exactly what constitutes illegal workplace surveillance. Since different states have slightly different rules, we’ve focused on Western Australia for the rest of this article.

Optical Surveillance

In general, optical surveillance with CCTV or other cameras is legal within the workplace. All office spaces and other common areas can be, and often are monitored. And as unsettling as it can be to have your every move scrutinized, WA law says that this is acceptable – as long as your employer gives you adequate warning and advertises the fact that certain areas are under visual surveillance.

On the other hand, video surveillance is illegal if you’re undertaking a “private activity” and you haven’t given permission to be monitored. In short, a “private activity” generally refers to anything you do that you wouldn’t generally want to be observed doing.

On top of this, the use of any audio or video monitoring device in bathrooms, changing rooms, lactation rooms, and bathrooms is illegal throughout WA and the rest of the country. The penalties for breaching this rule can be significant.

If you’re unsure about the legalities of your optical surveillance within the workplace, speak to an employment lawyer. It could save a lot of problems in the long-term.

Audio Surveillance and Recording

Unfortunately, the rules surrounding audio surveillance and recording are quite complicated. In the simplest terms, recording and/or using a device to listen to a private conversation is generally illegal. This can extend to cameras with the ability to record audio content.

One of the biggest issues we see is people recording conversations between themselves and an employer/employee. While this isn’t always illegal, it’s a grey area which could land you in trouble if you’re not careful. Instead, we’d recommend taking detailed written notes instead.

Monitoring and Recording Phone Calls

This one’s a lot simpler. It’s illegal to listen in to or record phone calls, even if you’re one of the people involved in the call. There are some very limited exceptions, but these are very specific and probably won’t apply to you.

In general, workplace surveillance laws are quite complicated. However, know that it’s almost always illegal to be monitored with either video or listening devices without your express consent.

If you feel like you’ve been the victim of illegal monitoring or surveillance, we’d highly encourage you to speak to a local employment lawyer. In less serious situations, it could also be a good idea to sit down and have a chat to your employer first.