Labour calls for curbs on bosses spying on remote workers

Tech that allows employers to check what their staff are up to while working from home as become increasingly common.

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Labour has called for curbs on remote surveillance of workers. Recent surveys show more and more employers are using technology to check up on their employees.

A recent YouGov survey found one in five firms has introduced online software to track employees working remotely and monitor their productivity, or is planning to do so. One in seven workers say that monitoring and surveillance at work has increased during the pandemic according to TUC research.

Monitoring

Monitoring software can record emails, messages and meeting attendance. It can even log how long it takes people to reply and access a laptop’s camera to check if someone is at their computer. 

TUC analysis found such data is being used to assess performance and inform redundancy decisions. That can lead to an increased risk of discrimination against disabled workers or those caring for children.

Labour say current rules have not kept pace with the rapid changes in the way people work. They are calling for the Code of Employment Practices from the Information Commissioner’s Office to be updated urgently. In addition, the party is calling for personal data collected through surveillance to be subject to a Data Protection Impact Assessment. And they want mandatory consultation with employees and trade unions before surveillance tech can be introduced.

Outdated

Chi Onwurah is Labour’s Shadow Digital Minister. She said: “Guidance and regulation to protect workers are woefully outdated in light of the accelerated move to remote working and rapid advancements in technology.

“The bottom line is that workers should not be digitally monitored without their informed consent. And there should be clear rules, rights and expectations for both businesses and workers.

“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 – which are increasingly one and the same.”

The call came as Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng confirmed the UK government is to review EU labour laws post-Brexit. However he insisted there would be no dilution of workers’ rights. He told MPs that his department is carrying out a consultation with business leaders on EU employment regulations. The working time directive, which sets a maximum 48-hour week, is among rules being evaluated.





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