Controversy around technologies used to monitor employees is not new. However, against the backdrop of COVID-19 with office-based workforces operating remotely, businesses have struggled with how to effectively manage staff and have hastily deployed surveillance technologies. This knee-jerk reaction is perhaps understandable, but employers must be wary. The backlash can be severe, unexpected, and sometimes public.
If implemented correctly, the law does not prohibit employee monitoring, but there has always been a fine line between monitoring to protect a legitimate business interest, and employee surveillance that invades an individual’s privacy.
For example, in 2016, The Telegraph withdrew devices that monitored the time employees spent at their desks after much criticism. In February 2020, Barclays launched a monitoring system that tracked the amount of time employees spent at desks, recorded toilet breaks as “unaccounted activity” and sent warnings to those who had not been “active” enough during the day; software that was scrapped a week later after widespread backlash amongst staff.
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