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Quiz: How Well Do You Know Australia's GPS Tracking Laws?

The rise of GPS has been a boon for many businesses, but as so often happens with new technology, the lawmakers haven’t exactly kept up. Australia’s workplace surveillance rules vary a lot between states and territories, so plans are afoot to make them more consistent across the country.

If this happens, it could turn the tables on business owners, putting them back on the wrong side of the law. So we wanted to find out how well you know Australia’s GPS tracking regulations.

The toughest regs are currently found in New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory, and it’s possible that the rest of the country will be moving in this direction, so these are what we’ve used as the benchmark for our quiz.

Is GPS Tracking Legal?

GPS tracking is permitted in Australian workplaces as long as it doesn’t contravene privacy or workplace surveillance laws. New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory have both passed workplace surveillance laws that specifically mention GPS tracking. Victoria also has its own workplace surveillance law, but this does not specifically mention GPS tracking. So here, and everywhere else, GPS tracking is covered by privacy law, which balances employees’ rights to privacy against employers’ rights to protect property and monitor performance.

GPS Tracking Law in New South Wales

The “Workplace Surveillance Act 2005 No 47” says that existing employees must be given 14 days notice in writing before GPS tracking is introduced and that new employees must be given notice in writing before they start their job. The notice must include details of:

  • The kind of surveillance to be carried out (camera, computer or tracking)
  • How the surveillance will be carried out
  • When the surveillance will start
  • Whether the surveillance will be continuous or intermittent
  • Whether the surveillance will be for a specified limited period or ongoing

Company vehicles with GPS tracking devices must contain signs advertising that the vehicle is being tracked.

GPS Tracking Law in Australian Capital Territory

The “Workplace Privacy Act 2011” is very similar to NSW’s Workplace Surveillance Act. It also requires employers to give existing employees 14 days notice in writing before GPS tracking is introduced and to give new employees written notice before they start. Where ACT differs, however, is in making the 14-day notice period a consultation process in which employers must invite employees to give feedback on the proposals. The notice that employers give to employees must include:

  • What kind of surveillance device will be used
  • How the surveillance will be done
  • Who will be the subject of the surveillance
  • When the surveillance will start
  • Whether the surveillance will be continuous or intermittent
  • Whether the surveillance will be for a stated period or ongoing
  • How the employer will use and disclose records of the surveillance
  • An opportunity for the employee to give feedback

Why Are GPS Tracking Laws Under Review?

The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) announced in 2014 that it would like workplace surveillance laws to be more consistent. It says:

“Specific workplace surveillance laws exist only in NSW, the ACT and, to some extent, in Victoria. As with general surveillance device laws, uniformity about workplace surveillance laws would promote certainty, particularly for employers and employees located in multiple jurisdictions.”

Among other things, the ALRC proposes removing references to “GPS tracking” from the regulations to account for other types of technology, as well as making the penalties for misuse the same in every state and territory. You can read the proposals here on the ALRC website.

Which GPS Tracking Law Should I Follow?

If you’re not in NSW or ACT, should you still follow their regulations for GPS tracking? Not necessarily, but it’s a good idea to. Telling your employees in advance that you plan to use GPS tracking, explaining why you’re using it and giving them an opportunity to give their feedback is just good business practice. It keeps everyone on the same page, allows you to address any concerns and means you should be ahead of the game if your state law changes, or if the ALRC proposals go through.

As ever, if you’re in any doubt as to whether you are using GPS tracking correctly in your workplace, always check with an HR expert or your lawyer.