· Features

Hot topic: Employee monitoring, part two

Barclays and the Daily Telegraph have both faced criticism for installing employee monitoring devices

Meanwhile staff at tech company Three Square Market can choose to have a chip injected into their hand. But how ethical is employee tracking technology? What are the risks and how can HR protect staff?

Rachel Farr, senior employment lawyer at Taylor Wessing, says:

"The idea of monitoring employee activity is not new, even if the technology being used is. UK employers have long had the right to track employees’ whereabouts and activities – whether through time spent at work, electronic passes, CCTV, recording calls or monitoring email and computer use.

"Human rights and data protection laws mean that employers need to consult and inform their employees of what is to be done, how and for what purpose. There needs to be safeguards in place so that any data gathered is stored securely, accessible only to those who need it, and destroyed as soon as it is no longer needed. Personal data not relevant to the purpose of the monitoring or tracking, needs to be kept out of the system.

"An employer considering microchipping its staff would need to be clear that participation is voluntary. There should be no penalty for those who do not wish to participate, and those who do should have consented voluntarily with knowledge of all the facts – including what will happen when the employee leaves their job.

"The microchips used in the US do not incorporate GPS technology, but this could well be the next step."

Mike Williams, people director of Byron Hamburgers, says:

"Over the last few years I’ve been reflecting on how relevant my assumptions about command and control structures are in today’s workplace, where discretionary effort is almost the norm.

"When I perform the best, work the hardest, put in the longest hours and really break a sweat, it’s always without exception when I have freedom over my work – whether that be decision-making or even the time or location.

"How relevant therefore is it for organisations to consider implanting chips in their employees to monitor their work performance and time? Even if the chip was used to pay for food or gain access to a building, how tempting would it be for an HR manager to investigate someone’s whereabouts through this method?

"We have biometric readers to swipe in and out of work but these are located only in the workplace, which means an employee is free to lead a private life without risk of intrusion. Anything further feels distinctly Theory X to me!"

Read the first part of this Hot Topic