As technology becomes more sophisticated, so do the challenges faced by employers. A seemingly common query relates to the legality of covert recordings made by employees of face to face meetings with managers or colleagues on smart phones or tablets.
In Vaughan v London Borough of Lewisham and others, the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) made clear that covert recordings are not inadmissible in Employment Tribunal proceedings merely because they were obtained in a clandestine or distasteful manner.
In this particular case, involving an employee claiming to have been subjected to unlawful disability discrimination, “dozens” of covertly recorded conversations were held inadmissible but only because their relevance to the legal issues in dispute was unclear. The employee was invited to submit a new application to admit specific and relevant recordings, with an indication given that these may be held admissible.
The scope for objecting to the use of covert recordings of face to face meetings in Employment Tribunals is limited, notably where the private life of those unaware that the conversation was being recorded is not discussed.
Whilst flagging the willingness of employees to deploy covert recordings as evidence in Employment Tribunal proceedings, this case highlights the importance of training managers how to manage and employees how to conduct themselves appropriately in the workplace.
Whilst technology leaps forward, the old adage that a person should never say anything that they would not wish to have repeated has perhaps never been more true.
Since it is impossible for employers to police what their employees do or say at all times, employers should consider prohibiting covert recordings at work, with any such conduct leading to disciplinary action.