In recent news, EY, one of the Big Four accounting firms, is going through scrutiny for its employee monitoring practices.
Reports indicate that the company has implemented a ‘turnstile’ tracking system, utilising swipe card entry data to monitor office attendance. While this approach is common in the evolving landscape of hybrid work models. However, questions arise about the balance between effective management and potential overreach.
Employee Monitoring at EY
EY’s decision to monitor staff office attendance using a ‘turnstile’ tracking system has prompted discussions about the boundaries of employee monitoring.
According to reports, anonymised data is being shared with senior levels within the firm. Then, it is used to showcase how frequently employees are present in the office. The intention behind this monitoring, as suggested, is to act as a “carrot rather than a stick,” encouraging compliance with the company’s hybrid working guidelines.
This move comes amidst a broader trend where employers, grappling with the challenges of hybrid work, seek ways to ensure adherence to workplace policies. However, the extent of monitoring at EY, coupled with concerns about the impact on employee morale and trust, has sparked a debate over whether such measures are too controlling.
What Employers Need to Keep in Mind When Monitoring Employees
While the concept of employee monitoring is not new, employers must tread carefully to strike a balance between oversight and respecting the privacy and autonomy of their workforce. Productivity monitoring has seemed to increase since the COVID-19 pandemic, reflecting a shift in how companies manage remote teams.
Employers must recognise that monitoring, when done excessively, can be counterproductive. Further, tracking office attendance can signal a lack of trust between employers and employees. This potential erosion of trust can have a detrimental impact on productivity and the overall relationship between management and staff.
Data Protection Responsibility
One key aspect that employers must bear in mind when monitoring staff is the responsibility for data protection.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Data Protection Act (DPA) outline stringent guidelines regarding the processing of personal data. Any monitoring activities must have a specific, explicit, and legitimate purpose.
The use of swipe card entry data and other monitoring technologies must align with data protection principles. Employers should be transparent about data collection, its purpose, and how long it will be retained.
Employees have the right to object to monitoring under human rights legislation, highlighting the need for a careful balance between operational needs and individual privacy rights.
Employee Monitoring: How to Reduce Risks
To mitigate legal and ethical risks associated with employee monitoring, employers can take proactive measures.
Firstly, having well-drafted employment contracts and policies is crucial. These documents should include clear provisions regarding monitoring activities, setting boundaries, and informing employees about the types of monitoring that may occur.
Clear communication is paramount. Employers should ensure that employees are aware of the purpose behind monitoring and how it aligns with business objectives.
A robust employee monitoring policy can serve as a guide, outlining acceptable practices and activities that may be detrimental to the business.
Balancing Act for Employers
The legal landscape surrounding employee monitoring is evolving, and employers must stay informed to navigate these changes effectively.
Monitoring should be justified and proportionate, taking into account both business needs and the potential impact on workplace culture. Striking the right balance is crucial for fostering a healthy work environment and maintaining the trust of the workforce.
Finally, while employee monitoring is legally permissible and, in some cases, necessary, the approach taken by employers must be measured. EY’s turnstile tracking system has sparked a broader conversation about the implications of such methods on workplace dynamics.
As the future of work continues to evolve, finding the balance between operational needs and employee rights will be paramount for businesses seeking to navigate the challenges of the modern workplace.