Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 12 Hansard (27 October) . . Page.. 5099..
workplaces and monitor their employees through surveillance. However, we do not recognise the need to mislead and conceal the means of doing so in the everyday running of a business.
An important principle in enabling people to protect their privacy is to ensure that they know when they are under surveillance and what they are under surveillance for. This bill enshrines this principle in legislation. This bill encourages full and open disclosure and dialogue between employers and workers about the need for surveillance and the impacts it has on privacy, security and performance. We also believe this will create far more harmonious workplaces due to this open disclosure and dialogue.
This bill will not have a substantial impact on most workplaces, as the requirements for compliance with the notified surveillance provisions are quite small and it will provide clarity to both employers and workers as to how surveillance will operate. This bill in no way restricts an employer from legitimate, overt, notified surveillance. The only situation where it will compel changes to the workplace is where employers are currently engaging in what would be considered covert surveillance, such as businesses that currently use concealed cameras to monitor the workplace or businesses that monitor places like change rooms or prayer rooms.
This bill is partially based upon the Workplace Surveillance Act as it operates in New South Wales. We have made several improvements to the bill, in some cases based upon the national privacy principles that regulate privacy interactions between businesses and consumers and, in others, based upon feedback provided on the operation of the Workplace Surveillance Act in New South Wales by groups such as the Australian Privacy Foundation.
Additionally, following feedback from the earlier exposure draft of this bill, the ACT Greens inserted provisions requiring consultation with employees during the notification period and specifying that employers must set out the purpose of the surveillance in the notification, thus restricting the use of surveillance records to the purposes set out in the notification. Some changes have been made to definitions, specifically defining "adverse action"consistent with the commonwealth Fair Work Act and provisions around consultation similar to the definition of consultation provided by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission case of the CPSU and Vodafone.
The bill provides for a six-month delay before the notified and covert surveillance provisions come into place to ensure that employers have sufficient time to comply with the provisions under the bill, whether it be conducting notification and consultation or removing covert surveillance from the workplace. The provisions regarding prohibited surveillance come into place immediately.
The ACT Greens want to work with the other parties in the Assembly to ensure that this legislation is implemented properly and effectively. We recognise that the vast majority of employers act appropriately when it comes to surveillance of employees in the workplace. However, in cases where footage of or information from employees is misused it can be very damaging for the person involved.