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What Do The Bosses Know? What Do They Need To Know?

What Do The Bosses Know? What Do They Need To Know?
18 February 2020

What data does your boss collect about you? Half of us don’t know –  and don't know what it is used for – according to new research from Prospect.

The union surveyed over 7,500 workers and found that 48% were not confident they knew what data their employer collected about them and 34% were not confident that this data would be used in an appropriate way.

The findings come at a time when anxiety about data collection and use is growing, with workplaces set to become an increasingly important frontier in the battle for control over personal data. There is also growing concern that the government may water down data rights currently guaranteed at an EU-level under GDPR.

“The next wave of technological change at work has the potential to make work much better for millions of us, yet it simply won’t work if workers don’t trust their bosses with their data."

-Mike Clancy

General Secretary, Prospect


A tool for recruitment


In addition to digitally held personal data used for recruitment, management or other HR processes, this may now include data gathered through technologies such as location tracking, keystroke monitoring, audio recording, CCTV or wearable devices such as Fitbits.

Such data is playing an increasing role in how employers recruit, manage or reward their workforces. According to Prospect's Clancy: "Often this can lack transparency or accountability, increasing the risk of ill-founded, unfair or discriminatory decision-making. In some cases it may involve data being fed into 'black box' algorithms, artificial intelligence systems or passed to external consultancies to whom processing has been outsourced."


Data abuse?


Consultants Deloitte have warned that employers need robust security safeguards, transparency measures, and clear communication around their people data efforts – or they could trigger employee privacy concerns and backlash over data abuse.


Transparency needed


Clancy concluded: “Employers need to be far more transparent about what data they are collecting on their workforce and how it is being used, we cannot sleepwalk into a situation where your boss can track your location on your work phone without you having any idea.

“If the government are serious about improving productivity through technology, then we need safeguards to make sure that we have the rights to match the new world of work, this must include empowering the collective voice of workers to influence change in the workplace.”

Prospect is calling for:

  • A right to privacy. Explicit commitments on employers’ collection and use of employee data should be included in employee contracts, collective agreements and bargaining processes, and in employee privacy notices required by GDPR rules.
  • A right to disconnect. As well as safeguards against excessive expectations of out-of-hours availability and responsiveness, rights to privacy from monitoring systems such as vehicle tracking or wearables during personal time.
  • A right to challenge and codetermination. Employees and their representatives should have the right to check and challenge how their data is used in employers’ decision-making processes, and share in the oversight and governance of employers’ data strategies, for example through representation on ethics committees and early consultation and involvement in the development of new proposals to gather, process or monetise data.

Picture: Employees are ignorant of what data is held on them and how it is used. The Prospect union is calling for greater transparency and controls.

Article written by Brian Shillibeer | Published 18 February 2020


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