Rise in the use of employee surveillance

Employee surveillance in the workplace has risen during the pandemic and now risks “spiralling out of control”, according to the Trade Union Congress (TUC).

According to their research, up to 60% of workers said they were under surveillance or were monitored at work in 2021, compared to 53% of respondents the year before. In particular, more workers reported monitoring of staff devices  and monitoring of phone calls than in the year before.

Employee surveillance can also include monitoring of emails and files, webcams on work computers, as well as tracking a worker’s typing, calls and movements using CCTV and trackable devices.

Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the TUC has called on the government to create a right to disconnect outside of working hours, suggesting that it be included in the Employment Bill currently making its way through Parliament.

The trade union is also calling for a statutory duty to consult trade unions before employers introduce the use of artificial intelligence and automated decision-making systems, and universal right to human review of high-risk decisions made by technology.

Employers should consider GDPR compliance as staff need to be aware of how the information gathered from workplace monitoring will be collated, stored and who will have access to it. Failure to inform employees of surveillance systems may lead to employers being in breach of data protection regulations. If employees don’t know they are being monitored, any information or evidence gathered through surveillance processes may not be able to be used when dealing with disciplinary or other issues.

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