Employees reject workplace monitoring

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Oct 04 2023 by Management-Issues Print This Article

Almost one in five (19%) people in the UK believe that they have been monitored by an employer and more than two-thirds (70%) find the idea of being monitored in the workplace intrusive, according to new research from the UK’s independent regulator for data protection and information rights law. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) also found that fewer than one in five (19%) people would feel comfortable taking a new job if they knew that their employer would be monitoring them.

Young people (18-24) emerged as being least likely to find monitoring intrusive (60% intrusive / 28% not intrusive), compared to 76% intrusive / 17% not intrusive for people aged between 55 and 64. Overall, only one in five (21%) of those surveyed said they would not find it intrusive to be monitored by an employer in any way.

Monitoring personal devices is considered the most intrusive practice at 83%, followed by recording audio and video (78%) and taking screenshots or webcam footage (77%). Monitoring timekeeping and access is considered the least intrusive practice, with 47% finding it intrusive.

“Our research shows that today’s workforce is concerned about monitoring, particularly with the rise of flexible working - nobody wants to feel like their privacy is at risk, especially in their own home,” said the ICO’s Deputy Commissioner, Emily Keaney.

“As the data protection regulator, we want to remind organisations that business interests must never be prioritised over the privacy of their workers. While data protection law does not prevent monitoring, our guidance is clear that it must be necessary, proportionate and respect the rights of workers. We will take action if we believe people’s privacy is being threatened.”

Coinciding with the research, the ICO has published new

guidance to help employers fully comply with data protection law if they wish to monitor their workers. As well as outlining legal requirements, this includes good practice advice to help employers build trust with their workers and respect their rights to privacy.

The guidance provides an overview of how data protection law applies to the processing of personal data for monitoring workers. It also considers specific types of monitoring practices, including the use of biometric data to monitor timekeeping and attendance.