Workplace Surveillance Laws Under Review

Queensland employers may soon need to overhaul their worker surveillance practices, as the Queensland Law Reform Commission considers the need for stricter privacy laws in the context of new and emerging technologies.

Key surveillance technologies that the investigation will review include optical surveillance in and around workplaces, data surveillance used to monitor employee's computer and internet usage, and tracking devices used to monitor employee's location.

Queensland Attorney-General and Justice Minister Yvette D'Ath said employers did use use optical surveillance, data monitoring and tracking devices for a number of legitimate reasons, "including to ensure employee health and safety, protect property from theft and damage, prevent fraud and monitor employee performance".

"However, like any other surveillance, it is vital this is considered against an employee's reasonable expectation of privacy. We need to ensure legislation strikes the right balance," she said.

While employers in Queensland are required to comply with general laws in respect to surveillance such as the Invasion of Privacy Act 1971, the surveillance of employees by employers is not specifically regulated in Queensland. States such as NSW, Victoria and the ACT already have legislation that specifically covers workplace surveillance.

The terms of reference for the review states that the investigation will not cover physical or psychological testing (such as drug and alcohol testing), physical searches of workers and their possessions, and the use of personal information in employment records.

The QLRC is expected to report on the review in June 2020.

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