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Workplace surveillance is any form of employee monitoring undertaken by an employer.

There’s nothing new about workplace surveillance. It’s been around for a long time, and it’s something unions have worked on for just as long.

However, as technology has advanced, so have the ways employers can monitor their staff. While in the recent past employers relied on timesheets, bag checks, and keeping a close eye on their employees, they can now make use of a litany of new surveillance methods.

This means that workplace monitoring can now vary drastically, from fairly basic and rudimentary surveillance, to much more complex and technology-driven monitoring.

We used to have to fill out a spreadsheet by hand, so you could get away with a bit more… Now it’s all done automatically on the computer.
Call centre worker, Birmingham

Here are some examples of common forms of monitoring, broken down into two groups:

Monitoring computer and phone use

  • Monitoring employee emails from their work account and browser history and/or files saved on work computers
  • Monitoring employee browser histories on personal devices that are on connected to the employer’s Wi- Fi network
  • Monitoring employees using webcams on work computers
  • Using keystroke-logging software to monitor when and how much an employee is typing
  • Keeping records of employee telephone logs and calls, as well as recording their calls
  • Monitoring employee use of social media outside of working hours (such as monitoring the posts on an employee’s personal Facebook or Twitter account)
I’ve taken jobs where we don’t use a sign-in sheet. Instead, they take our fingerprint. It skips a process, but I feel like it’s an invasion of privacy.
Barry, a construction worker

Tracking the movement of employees

  • CCTV
  • Tracking the location of company assets, e.g. location trackers on company vehicles, computers or phones
  • Using facial recognition software to monitor the expression and mood of staff while working
  • Security and bag checks when entering and leaving the workplace
  • Using access cards to monitor and record the location of employees in a building and how long they spend there
  • Using handheld or wearable devices to monitor and record the exact location and movements of employees within the workplace


Union case study: the changing nature of surveillance in the energy sector
Unite logo
Unite the Union have noticed an increasing trend towards excessive surveillance in the energy sector. This includes the use of vehicle monitoring technology and dash cameras at a number of companies, and even real-time streaming video surveillance in some vehicles. Companies are now also pushing for body cameras to be worn. So far, however, unions have been able to successfully resist this...
Union case study:
What is workplace monitoring?
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