Research perspectives

Workplace Surveillance rising rapidly – and workers don’t like it

A survey conducted for the TUC by Britain Thinks has found that employee surveillance in the workplace has risen during the pandemic and now risks “spiralling out of control”

Employee surveillance covers a wide range of devices  – monitoring of emails and files, webcams on work computers, as well as tracking a worker’s typing, calls and movements using CCTV and trackable devices.

The survey found 60 per cent of those polled said they had been under surveillance or monitored at work in 2021, compared to 53 per cent of respondents in a survey the year before; and more workers reported monitoring of staff devices (24 per cent in 2021 compared to 20 per cent in 2020) and monitoring of phone calls (14 per cent compared to 11 per cent) than in the year before.

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC called on the government to create a right to disconnect outside of working hours, and a statutory duty to consult trade unions before employers introduce the use of artificial intelligence and automated decision-making systems.

This echoes the views of those polled, where over 80% supported new regulations on the introduction of new artificial intelligence and technology-based surveillance in the workplace, with 72 per cent agreeing that without careful regulation, the use of technology to make decisions about workers could increase unfair treatment.