HR · 23 August 2018

Do you snoop on your staff? 3 workers who were stalked by their boss

Three-quarters of workers say bosses should be banned from monitoring them outside of working hours
The Ill Be Watching You report by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) found that 6 in 10 workers think snooped on by their boss fuels distrust and discrimination. Here are the stories of three workers who submitted their own personal experiences to the TUC.

According to the report, snooping can take a variety of forms, such as:

  • Monitoring internet use, keystrokes and through webcams
  • Location tracking by handheld or wearable devices
  • Recording time away from work tasks (for example timing toilet breaks)
  • The use of facial recognition software to assess workers? moods
Workers raised fears that this surveillance data will be used by bosses to set unfair targets, micro-manage them and take away control and autonomy.

Snooping outside of work

Three-quarters of workers say bosses should be banned from monitoring them outside of working hours. But a third think that their activity on social media accounts is being snooped on when they are not at work.

Stronger protections

The vast majority of workers (79%) say employers should be legally required to consult their workforces and reach agreement before using surveillance.

Enforcement of the new general data protection regulations (GDPR) may help but new safeguards are needed to ensure that employers respect workers? rights to privacy and prevent employers using excessive or intrusive surveillance at work.

Commenting on this, TUC General Secretaryfrances Ogrady’said: Employers should discuss and agree workplace monitoring policies with their workforces – not impose them upon them.

“Unions can negotiate agreements that safeguard workers? privacy while still making sure the job gets done.But the law needs to change too, so that workers are better protected against excessive and intrusive surveillance.

The following case studies were submitted to the TUC

Employee #1 Every movement monitored

Trevor has worked as an HGV driver for the same employer for 28 years. In the last 10 years new monitoring technology has become a major cause of stress.

At first it was just a tracker system to let the employer see the vehicle’s location. That wasnt a problem. But the company kept on stepping up the technology. He is now subject to live data streaming of every aspect of his driving, including monitoring and restricting the route he can take.

There are also in-cab cameras constantly watching drivers, even if they have a break. it’s not just clear problems that are watched for, like using a mobile while driving or not having a seatbelt on. The company has declared a raft of activities as ‘gross misconduct’ including drinking from a water bottle.

Drivers are only allowed to take a break from driving every three to four hours. And while driving their every movement is under intense scrutiny. They are controlled by a computer that always assumes a best-case scenario and does not allow for sensible reactions to things that can change. Trevor says it has created an oppressive and stressful environment where you feel you cannot relax for even a minute. And he thinks this is more of a safety risk when driving than taking a sip of water when he needs it.

Employee #2 CCTV to sexually harass

Kirsty is 18 years old and from Yorkshire. She worked for a supermarket on their security team. One night she heard her colleagues talking and laughing about something on the radio. Later she went to the CCTV room to review the footage and discovered they had used the security camera to zoom in on her backside.

They tried to intimidate her, saying that if she put in a grievance they would look for things to get her into trouble for example if she was late back from lunch, or took too many breaks. And they threatened to do the same to her Mum, who also worked at the store.


 
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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Carly Hacon is a reporter for Business Advice. She has a BA in journalism from Kingston University, and has previously worked as a features editor for a local newspaper.

Work and Wellbeing