Finger Printing Employees at Work – Can it be made Mandatory?

Digital Finger Print

In a recent decision of the Fair Work Commission, it was found that the dismissal of an employee for failing to comply with a direction that he submit his finger prints to be used in scanners to sign on and off for work at the site was unlawful.  The employee had set out his concerns about the use of the scanners and collection of his biometric data to the employer and, despite those concerns, the employer terminated the employee’s employment for refusing to comply.  The original Commissioner who heard the matter concluded that the Site Attendance Policy was reasonable as it improved safety in the event of an emergency by avoiding the need to locate the paper Sign In and Out book, that the scanners improved the integrity and efficiency of the payroll systems and that the employer had the right to manage its affairs by requiring employees to comply with the Policy.  On appeal, the Fair Work Commission found that the Policy and the direction to comply with it were issued in circumstances where the employer did not have a Privacy Policy as required by Principle 1 of the Australian Privacy Principles

It was found that the Australian Privacy Principles applied to the employer in connection with the solicitation and collection of sensitive information from employees and therefore the direction to comply with the Policy unlawful and therefore unreasonable and was not a valid reason for dismissal.

This case serves as a timely reminder that when collection of sensitive data is being requested of employees, a Privacy Policy must be fully formed and properly adhered to as part of the process otherwise what would otherwise be considered reasonable actions and directions of an employer may be deemed to be unlawful and therefore unreasonable, thereby exposing employers to unfair dismissal claims.

Should you have any queries relating to the above, or any other Employment Law issues, please contact Clelands Lawyers Adelaide Director Ben Farmer