News Article

BUSINESS NEWS - UK - Monitoring of home workers on the rise, study finds

Posted 8th November 2021 • Written by •

One in three, or 32%, of workers in the UK are now being monitored at work, this is up from a quarter (24%) six months ago in April 2021, according to a survey from Prospects.

The survey found that the increase also includes a doubling of the use of camera monitoring in people’s homes, with 13% of home workers currently being monitored by cameras compared to 5% six months ago.

The polling, which was conducted by Opinium, also found that 80% of workers thought that the use of webcams to monitor remote workers should either be banned (52%) or heavily regulated (28%) with 8% of workers thinking that employers should be allowed to decide unilaterally when to use cameras to monitor people working in their own homes.

The finding comes as the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is reviewing guidance to employers on the use of new technologies such as monitoring.

Younger workers (18-34) were found to be particularly at risk with a significantly higher rate of monitoring than their older colleagues. Overall, 48% of younger workers reported being monitored at work, including 20% being monitored using cameras.

Prospect is calling for a range of measures to protect employees for intrusive monitoring. They have called on the ICO to toughen the regulation on the introduction of new monitoring technology in workplaces, ensuring that employees are always consulted as part of this technology and there is full transparency on how this tech is used.

Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy said, “We are used to the idea of employers checking up on workers, but when people are working in their own homes this assumes a whole new dimension. New technology allows employers to have a constant window into their employees’ homes, and the use of the technology is largely unregulated by government.”

Chi Onwurah MP, Labour’s Shadow Digital Minister, added, “Ministers must urgently provide better regulatory oversight of online surveillance software to ensure people have the right to privacy whether in their workplace or home. The bottom line is that workers should not be subject to digital surveillance without their informed consent, and there should be clear rules, rights and expectations for both businesses and workers.”

Sridhar Iyengar, managing director for Zoho Europe, said, “Remote monitoring software has its place. For example, for employers to spot ways to improve work processes, identify under-use of applications and this may help determine where more staff training is required to aid adoption, for example. However, employers need to ensure this ethical use is in practice now and moving forwards in order to maintain a healthy culture where two-way trust is promoted.

“The building up of trust between the employer and staff is key to employee retention and longevity,” Iyengar said. “No one would want to work in a 'highly surveilled and monitored environment'. Companies who misuse remote monitoring tools for 'staff surveillance', face reputation damage and employees are likely to vote with their feet and find an employer with better values.”

The Information Commissioner's Office advises that employers should ensure staff are aware of monitoring at work - whether at home or in the office - before it starts. They should also explicitly be informed of the reasons for this happening.

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