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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Gap in Workplace Surveillance Act

At the time the NSW Workplace Surveillance Act was introduced there were doubts about whether NSW legislation applied to Commonwealth Government bodies operating in the NSW. The Act, amongst other things bans employers from blocking staff access to union emails and websites from their work computers.

According to to-day’s Australian Financial Review the NSW Attorney General has been advised that the Act does not provide the basis for prosecution of Centrelink (a Commonwealth Government agency) for blocking access to the Combined Public Sector Union website last October, just after the Act commenced. Centrelink subsequently reinstated access as part of the settlement of an enterprise agreement.

The Attorney General said that the Commonwealth Government should draft laws of its own that mirror the NSW provisions.

While NSW has been the first state to enact workplace surveillance laws and has sought to promote the NSW Act as a model for other states, the Victorian Government is currently considering a Law Reform Commission Report, Workplace Privacy Final Report (October 2005) that proposes broader laws that cover areas such as genetic testing. It hopes its approach will be adopted nationally.

In this area, like so many others, it looks like the usual Australian rules will prevail: different jurisdictions, different laws, different provisions.

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