The new performance monitoring, lie-detector based system from Microsoft could create privacy issues by generating a ‘Big Brother’ feel in the workplace according to employment law specialists at Glovers solicitors.
The new patent software has been designed to detect frustration or stress in a worker signalling that they need help.
The new technology is designed to keep track of a worker’s metabolism, heart rate, temperature, movements, facial expressions and blood pressure through specifically placed sensors. A system that was traditionally used by fighter pilots and astronauts in life-or-death situations is now putting office workers, middle-manages and even bosses at risk.
The strain on the fundamental trust between employer and employee could, if not approached correctly, raise a wide range of employment law issues. “If not carefully regulated this may result in a flood of tribunal claims by employees” says Sikin Andela, partner and employment law specialist at Glovers. “Employers will need to protect themselves by making it expressly clear that the employee may be monitored and they will need to amend their policies and procedures”.
Whilst Microsoft believes that detecting problems in their workers as they happen will hold huge benefits for both company and employee, this intrusion into their lives raises very serious privacy issues. “Through this monitoring an employer could discover information that leads to disciplinary action being taken” says Andela. “If an employee is not made aware that they are potentially being monitored then any claim they make to a tribunal will have a prospect of success”.
An individual has the right to respect for his or her private, family, home life and correspondence according to The Human Rights Act 1998. To justify such close inspection an employer must make it absolutely clear that privacy is not guaranteed. “This ‘Big Brother’ style of keeping tabs on employees is potentially highly contentious” says Andela. “It is critical that employees know that they are being monitored but equally importantly, employers must make sure they have evaluated the business need against the individual rights of the worker as this will be key in any Tribunal proceedings”.