Employee surveillance could “get out of control,” a union group warns

An increase in workplace surveillance during the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to widespread discrimination, labor intensification and unfair treatment of workers if legal safeguards are not put in place, according to a prominent UK trade union group.

The Trade Union Congress (TUC), which represents most unions in the UK, released polling results this week Emphasizing the use of surveillance technologies to monitor workers in various professions.

The survey, which polled 2,209 workers in England and Wales in December 2021, found 60% of respondents believe they are being monitored at work, up from 53% in 2020. Techniques include monitoring emails and files, employee webcams, keystroke logging and phone records and movement tracking via CCTV.

The research also showed that surveillance of workers is more common in certain occupational sectors: Financial services workers were the most likely to report surveillance (74%), followed by wholesale and retail workers (73%) and utility workers (73%). .

“Worker surveillance technology has exploded during this pandemic – and is now in danger of spiraling out of control,” Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary, said in a statement.

reports from intrusive monitoring of remote workers are not limited to the UK. A number of companies worldwide have embraced this tactic during the pandemic, as office workers have been forced to work from home, out of the direct view of managers. These companies used monitoring tools to track employee activity and ensure productivity levels remained unchanged outside the office, raising concerns about employee well-being.

In guidance on remote work, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently warned employers of the potential harm to staff from unnecessary monitoring and urged employers to “refrain from excessive monitoring or monitoring of workers, including the inappropriate use of software that monitors computer usage or enables always-on online video capabilities. Such measures reduce trust and can increase stress for remote workers WHO guidelines published last month.

While some level of monitoring is required in the employer-employee relationship, the availability of new technologies and the recent boom in home working need to be taken into account has sparked a debate about what is acceptable.

“Many industries are required to conduct some level of employee activity tracking through industry-specific regulations,” said Angela Ashenden, principal analyst at technology analytics firm CCS Insight. Financial services companies, for example, need to ensure customer data is adequately protected, she said. “But employees also have a right to privacy, especially in their own homes, so it depends on what data is collected and how it is stored and used by the employer.”

Employee monitoring employee survey 2020 CCS insight

How employees view monitoring of remote workers depends on the rationale a company uses to explain the practice.

Research from CCS Insight in 2020 showed that in certain circumstances employees are more likely to be satisfied with increased surveillance. This includes monitoring that improves, for example, employees’ technology experience and online safety when working from home. But employees are more likely to “push back heavily if they think it’s focused on their productivity or their personal health and well-being,” Ashenden said.

“Companies that go over the top when it comes to employee privacy perceptions are at best jeopardizing employee trust or, at worst, litigation,” she said.

Algorithmic management?

Employee surveillance is an issue across the workforce: the TUC also warned Monday about the negative impact of algorithmic management and surveillance, which tends to affect those in lower-paying “gig economy” jobs, such as B. Drivers of ride-hailing platforms.

New management and surveillance technologies must be regulated to protect all workers, the TUC said. The rules should include a requirement that employers consult with unions before implementing monitoring or algorithmic management systems, the TUC said, as well as human oversight of algorithmic decisions.

“Employers delegate major decisions to algorithms — such as hiring, promotions, and sometimes even firing,” O’Grady said.

The TUC survey found that most workers, 82%, support a legal obligation for employers to consult before introducing surveillance, compared with 75% in 2020. A majority, 72%, also agreed that the Using technology to make decisions about workers could increase unfair treatment without careful regulation; This percentage has increased from 61% two years ago.

There are increasing calls to internationally regulate the use of worker monitoring and AI management technologies. The European Commission recently proposed new rules That would require companies employing “gig” workers to be more transparent about usage algorithmic management and surveillance.

In the US, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy called for an AI Bill of Rights to more fully regulate the use of technology in the workplace and in society.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

https://www.computerworld.com/article/3652513/employee-monitoring-risks-spiraling-out-of-control-union-group-warns.html#tk.rss_all Employee surveillance could “get out of control,” a union group warns

Fry Electronics Team

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