Insurance lawyers Weightmans is advising employer clients to check with their insurance company before initiating covert surveillance on employees suspected of misdemeanours.

This is because the surveillance needs to be much more carefully thought through in the light of new Human Rights legislation which enshrines respect for private life.

"If a defendant – such as an insurer – has gained evidence through surveillance which shows the claim to be fraudulent then it is likely this evidence will be admitted," said partner Kevin Fletcher. "The public interest in preventing fraud must surely outweigh the individual's right to privacy."

The firm issued its warning following reports that the number of private investigations into suspect employees would be curbed when the legislation becomes law in October.

However, the firm said that there was still plenty of room for private investigations.

Weightmans, based in the North West and Midlands, is setting up a Human Rights best practice group.