Research perspectives

Employee monitoring on the increase during pandemic says TUC

In a survey of more than 3,000 workers across the UK commissioned by the TUC, more than one in seven employees reported that monitoring by their employer has increased since the pandemic began in March 2020.

The monitoring has come in a number of forms, with 27% of respondents reported having their work communication screened, 13% experiencing desktop monitoring and 8% saying their social media has been monitored. The research also found that employers were using technologies to assess when employees started and finished work (26%) and the amount of time taken on breaks (13%). Workers on insecure contracts were more likely to be monitored, with a third saying they felt their activities at work were monitored at all times.

The research also looked more widely at trends in electronic monitoring, finding that than a  fifth of respondents had experienced the use of the technology for absence management, 14% for work allocation, timetabling shifts, and the assessment of training needs.

Overall just under a third of respondents said they were consulted when new forms of technology and workplace monitoring were introduced; two thirds were uncomfortable with the use of technology to make decisions about people at work; and more than a half said the  use of technology needed careful regulation or it could result in unfair treatment and damage trust between employers and workers.

Responding to the findings, TUC General Secretary said that workers must be properly consulted on the use of AI, and protected from punitive ways of working. “As we emerge from this crisis, tech must be used to make working lives better – not to rob people of their dignity.”