Tuesday 19 January 2021 / 11:31 AM Digital

Labour says workers must be better protected as employers increase digital surveillance

Labour is today calling for the Government to urgently update guidance on employment practices amidst a sharp increase in the use of remote surveillance by businesses, as more people work from home during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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

As well as monitoring emails, messages and meeting attendance, online software can even log how long it takes people to reply and record camera shots. The data can be used to assess performance and analysis by the TUC has found that artificial intelligence increasingly has a role in redundancy decisions, leading to an increased risk of discrimination against disabled workers or those caring for children.

Labour is calling for the Code of Employment Practices from the Informational Commissioner’s Office to be updated urgently in light of rapid changes to how people work. In addition, Labour is calling for any use of personal data through surveillance to be subject to a Data Protection Impact Assessment, as well as consultation with employees and trade unions, before it is introduced. 


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“Guidance and regulation to protect workers are woefully outdated in light of the accelerated move to remote working and rapid advancements in technology.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