An employer's right to pry: a study of workplace privacy in new zealand rebecca Britton

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Rebecca Britton*

I. Introduction

The issue of workplace privacy is receiving much attention in academic literature throughout the world. Some have pushed reality to its limit, describing frightening scenarios in which employers will one day have the ability to monitor and control employee conduct both within and outside of the workplace. What is clear from a review of the current law affecting the privacy rights of workers in New Zealand is that, while far from unregulated, there are many occasions where the interests of employers will trump an employee's privacy rights. Concern for privacy rights suggests a need for reform of the existing law.

This paper will canvas the relevant issues surrounding workplace privacy in New Zealand. First, introductory points will be made. There will then be a discussion of how privacy is currently threatened in the workplace, followed by an analysis of whether there is in fact a right to privacy in the workplace, and, if there is such a right, when specific privacy invasive activities can be justified. Second, the laws that regulate or affect the right to privacy in the workplace will be summarised. Third, these laws will be applied to the identified workplace privacy issues and their effectiveness at protecting worker privacy will be analysed. Finally, suggestions will be made as to potential reform. This discussion will be aided by references to reform in other jurisdictions, focusing particularly on the recent proposal by the Victorian Law Reform Commission.

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