Union Warns of Surge in Employee Monitoring at Home

A leading union is calling for government leadership and closer engagement with businesses after revealing that a majority of employees are uncomfortable with digital monitoring whilst remote working.

Trade union Prospect, which has 150,000 members including engineers, scientists, managers and civil servants, recently polled over 1800 workers to better understand their attitudes to remote monitoring by employers.

It found that 80% would be uncomfortable with camera monitoring technology, 76% with electronic tracking, and 66% with keystroke monitoring. Nearly half (48%) said the introduction of monitoring software would have a negative impact on their relationship with their manager, rising to 62% among 18-24-year-old workers.

Such activity has become increasingly common, especially during the surge in home working over the past few months. One surveillance software-maker has claimed to have seen a four-fold spike in UK customers year-on-year.

In August it was revealed that UK privacy regulator the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) had opened an investigation into Barclays Bank after it was alleged that the lender was spying on its staff.

“People expect that they can keep their personal lives private and that they are also entitled to a degree of privacy in the workplace,” an ICO spokesman said at the time.

“If organizations wish to monitor their employees, they should be clear about its purpose and that it brings real benefits. Organizations also need to make employees aware of the nature, extent and reasons for any monitoring.”

Prospect is calling on the government to regulate monitoring technology before it becomes even more widespread, and to formalize a “right to disconnect” allowing workers to refuse such surveillance. It added that any businesses looking to introduce this kind of technology must abide by the GDPR and be transparent with their workforce.

“Having your every keystroke or app usage monitored by your boss while you are working in your own home may sound like a dystopia, but there are precious few controls in place to prevent it becoming a daily reality for millions of workers across Britain,” argued Prospect general secretary, Mike Clancy.

“The evidence suggests the workforce are simply not ready for it. If government is going to tell workers to stay home, then it needs to get serious about this issue, by bringing businesses, unions, and tech companies together to discuss what modern workers’ rights should look like in this new world of work.”

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