Report highlights level of perceived monitoring at work

Working in the office


A majority of working people think it’s likely that they’re already being monitored at work and many believe it is going to become more widespread in the near future, according to a new report from the TUC that warns that it could lead to more discrimination and affect colleague relationships.

While 56 per cent of the 2,100 members of the public surveyed think it’s likely they are being monitored, almost three-in-four (72 per cent) believe it’s at least fairly likely that at least one form of workplace monitoring is happening in their workplace.

The TUC says the most common forms of surveillance include:
  • Monitoring employees’ work emails, files and browsing histories (49 per cent of people think it’s fairly likely or very likely to be happening in their workplace)
  • CCTV (45 per cent)
  • Phone logs and calls, including the recording of calls (42 per cent)

However, the TUC says more advanced forms of surveillance (such as facial recognition and handheld/wearable location tracking devices) are more commonly used than might have been expected.

Data protection law, recently strengthened by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), places significant limits on when and how employers should use new technology to monitor their staff in and outside the workplace.

However, the TUC says too few people know about these rights and how they might apply in their workplace and many feel unable to challenge employers’ use of surveillance.

The report calls for:

  • A legal requirement for employers to consult with staff before introducing new forms of surveillance
  • Employers to fully justify the use of any new forms of workplace monitoring before they can be enforced
  • A clear line between when surveillance is and isn’t acceptable, with an understanding that it isn’t acceptable outside working hours (including while on breaks)
  • Regulations to be put in place to stop monitoring being used in a discriminatory way

The TUC says that while workplace monitoring can be justified and used fairly to protect the health and safety of workers and improve business practices, when used badly or inappropriately it “becomes symptomatic of an employer’s lack of trust in staff, which in turn demoralises workers and can make staff miserable”. It adds that excessive surveillance can also be intrusive and interfere with people’s basic rights to privacy and dignity at work.

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