EMPLOYER SURVEILLANCE OF REMOTE WORKERS RAPIDLY RISES

As working practices throughout the pandemic have shifted to encompass more ways of remote working, the number of employers surveilling staff is also on the rise.

One in three workers (32 per cent) are now being monitored at work – a rise from just a quarter (24 per cent) in April, new research from Prospect suggests.

Alongside this, the number of workers being monitored by cameras have doubled compared to half a year ago, now reaching 13 per cent.

The finding comes as the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is reviewing guidance to employers on the use of new technologies such as monitoring.

According to Acas, employers should carry out an impact assessment to decide if and how to carry out monitoring.

This should clearly entail setting out the reasons for monitoring and the likely benefits and drawbacks as well as looking at other options to monitoring or different ways to carry it out.

When asked about their view of surveillance, four in five workers believe that the use of webcams to monitor remote workers should either be banned (52 per cent) or heavily regulated (28 per cent).

Younger workers aged between 18-34 were found to be most at risk of being monitored by employers with almost half (48 per cent) reporting this experience.

In light of this, Prospect is calling for a range of measures to protect employees from intrusive monitoring including prompting the ICO to toughen the regulation on the introduction of new monitoring technology in workplaces.

In addition, the union is also arguing employees should always be consulted about this technology and there is full transparency on how this surveillance technology is used.

Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy said:

We are used to the idea of employers checking up on workers, but when people are working in their own homes this assumes a whole new dimension.

New technology allows employers to have a constant window into their employees homes, and the use of the technology is largely unregulated by government.

We think that we need to upgrade the law to protect the privacy of workers and set reasonable limits on the use of this snooping technology, and the public overwhelmingly agree with us.

Chi Onwurah MP, Labour’s Shadow Digital Minister, added:

This deeply worrying research shows just how anxious many people are about the use of invasive surveillance whilst they work.

Ministers must urgently provide better regulatory oversight of online surveillance software to ensure people have the right to privacy whether in their workplace or home.

The bottom line is that workers should not be subject to digital surveillance without their informed consent, and there should be clear rules, rights and expectations for both businesses and workers.

*To obtain this research, Opinium polled 2424 UK workers between the 19th and 22nd October 2021.

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