IOLIS Legal Services

13 July 2020

Should you use thermal scans to check your employees or customers for COVID-19?

Millions of workers are heading back to offices, factories, and shops as Britain slowly emerges from lockdown.

Now, companies and organisations are facing a dilemma: should they use body temperature cameras to attempt to screen staff and customers who might have COVID-19 symptoms?

If they do, could these organisations find themselves in hot water legally?

The short answer is, yes, they could. Here are the reasons why…

How could thermal scans come under the remit of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)?

The French Council of State has just ruled on a case brought by a non-governmental organisation under the country’s code of administrative justice.

The NGO asked the courts to remove fixed and portable thermal cameras in municipal offices and schools in the city of Lisses which were being used to monitor the temperatures of staff, students, and citizens.

The French courts ruled that article four of GDPR applied (the taking of a temperature is processing) because people would be asked to leave if a high temperature was found, and their superiors or teachers would then have to be informed.

In other words, recorded high body temperatures did identify people, so they fell under the category of sensitive personal information.

The court ruled that processing individuals’ body temperatures was not legal and the city was ordered to remove the cameras.

So, how does that apply in the UK?

Article four of GDPR applies here in the same way that it does in France. So, organisations which use thermal cameras could face the same legal challenge.

Information which is held under GDPR also must have a legal basis for its collection, processing, and storage.

What would the legal basis for thermal cameras be? That’s a very grey area.

COVID-19 can be spread without symptoms such as a high temperature, so monitoring them isn’t necessarily an effective method of keeping employees safe.

In fact, the current system of calling in to self-certify when someone has symptoms or sending in a doctor’s note could be argued as being perfectly adequate for workplace safety, provided social distancing and other workplace measures are also in place.

Organisations could get consent for temperature scans from employees, visitors, and customers, but would all of them agree?

If someone didn’t, there would be no legal basis for collecting this data as it is classed as 'special category'.

As special category data, which includes medical details, political views, religion and ethnicity, there must also be stringent measures in place to ensure the data is secure and processed within the bounds of GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018.

How could discrimination law apply?

There is also the possibility that monitoring temperatures when entering a building might be seen as discriminatory to certain employees.

For example, women undergoing the menopause often suffer from hot flushes which raise their temperatures.

They may well not wish to discuss their medical condition with their employer but might be singled out by temperature-measuring cameras as potentially suffering from coronavirus symptoms.

That could lead to some awkward, unwanted conversations with managers.

These women may feel that the use of the cameras is discriminatory, and an employee could file a claim against their employer even if they have not been at their workplace for two years as a case of discrimination exempts the employee from the qualifying period of employment needed to bring a claim.

So, before you decide to use thermal scans in your organisation, get professional advice about the legal basis for using them and how that is affected by data protection legislation.

If you need our expert advice, please call us on 029 2000 2339 or email contact@iolis-legal.com

Recent Posts

Why you should use an independent person to conduct a workplace investigation

There exists in an employment contract an implied obligation to not act in a manner likely to destroy or seriously damage the relationship of confidence and trust without reasonable and proper cause. This relationship can become imperilled when an allegation has been made against an employee and this needs to be investigated. In a recent […]

Read more
Why will every toy seller in the UK soon need to up their game about data protection?

These days, internet-connected toys are in huge demand. Children want internet-connected toys such as Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit which allows you to take the online game and recreate it in your own home, setting up circuits and controlling the players via the Nintendo Switch. Or they might ask for Artie 3000, a drawing robot […]

Read more
5 Things to Remember When Meeting Over Video

As industry and commerce gets used to the ‘new normal’, the use of video conferencing facilities and software is becoming widespread. It is a useful tool and has undeniably been a major factor in bringing teams back together in a virtual way during the pandemic lockdown. There has been a lot of media coverage on […]

Read more
Will monitoring your home-working staff land your business in hot water?

Large scale working from home happened very quickly at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many organisations didn’t have time to fully explore the impact this could have on working practices. Some businesses and organisations had already embraced the benefits of remote working for their employees. Others had been wary of it and had […]

Read more
The 7 easy ways you can avoid data protection in your business becoming a Halloween horror show...

I was working as a DPO, late one night,When my eyes beheld an eerie sight.For a monster problem began to riseAnd suddenly, to my surprise,There was a breach, a data breach.How far’d it reach, that data breach?Where did it reach? Don’t be left singing your own version of the Monster Mash this Halloween! There are […]

Read more

Does your UK business need support? Tell us how we can help you.

Call us to start the conversation on 029 2000 2339 or email contact@iolis-legal.com

Contact us
6 October 2021
Why you should use an independent person to conduct a workplace investigation
There exists in an employment contract an implied obligation to not act in a manner likely to destroy or seriously damage the relationship of confidence and trust without reasonable and proper cause. This relationship can become imperilled when an allegation has…
Read More
26 January 2021
Why will every toy seller in the UK soon need to up their game about data protection?
These days, internet-connected toys are in huge demand. Children want internet-connected toys such as Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit which allows you to take the online game and recreate it in your own home, setting up circuits and controlling the players via the…
Read More
9 November 2020
5 Things to Remember When Meeting Over Video
As industry and commerce gets used to the ‘new normal’, the use of video conferencing facilities and software is becoming widespread. It is a useful tool and has undeniably been a major factor in bringing teams back together in a virtual way during the pandemic lockdown.…
Read More
25 October 2020
Will monitoring your home-working staff land your business in hot water?
Large scale working from home happened very quickly at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many organisations didn’t have time to fully explore the impact this could have on working practices. Some businesses and organisations had already embraced the benefits…
Read More
25 October 2020
The 7 easy ways you can avoid data protection in your business becoming a Halloween horror show...
I was working as a DPO, late one night,When my eyes beheld an eerie sight.For a monster problem began to riseAnd suddenly, to my surprise,There was a breach, a data breach.How far’d it reach, that data breach?Where did it reach? Don’t be left singing your own version…
Read More
20 October 2020
How could the right to be forgotten affect your amateur rugby or football club?
The General Data Protection Regulation was ground-breaking legislation in several ways. It brought data protection rules to filed paper documents, for example, and gave individuals a standard mechanism to request what data an organisation holds on them. Among…
Read More
IOLIS Legal Services is a trading style of IOLIS Ltd. Regd in England & Wales. Company Number 11968202. Regd office: International, House, 10 Churchill Way, Cardiff CF10 2HE. Total paid up share capital £10.
© 2020 IOLIS Ltd. | Website designed, hosted, and maintained by Jötnar Systems