Does an employer have a right to demand workers turn on their web cameras while they’re working from home?
Recently, a Dutch court awarded a man €75,000 in compensation after his American employers insisted that he kept his webcam turned on throughout the working day.
The man said he felt uncomfortable being monitored constantly and the court agreed that the level of surveillance amounted to a breach of his human rights.
A similar demand from an Irish employee would likely also be viewed unfavourably by the courts.
“It is well recognised in Ireland that you do not monitor people through technology constantly,” John Barry, an HR expert, explained to Lunchtime Live.
“If you’re going to have CCTV in the workplace, you’re going to have an objective resource - which is normally security or safety - but you cannot monitor employees through CCTV.
“So I don’t see this as being hugely dissimilar to that.”
The rules and etiquette of working from home are still very much evolving in the post-pandemic world. However, Mr Barry believes that there is one circumstance where bosses are within their right to demand an employee turns their webcam on.
“[If] it’s a meeting,” he added, “if these meetings would normally take place face to face in the workplace then I think it’s reasonable for employers to say, ‘Yes, I require your camera on whilst we’re having these meetings.’
“I don’t think you can say, ‘Just because I’m working from home, I’m allowed to behave differently to when I’m working at work.’
“If it’s a normal face to face type meeting, then yes you’re entitled to expect people to have their webcams on. I don’t think that’s unreasonable. It does help, certainly in terms of reacting with people.”
Main image: Participants in an online meeting. Picture by: Alamy.com