Brainfood: Workplace Rights - Tag Lines

Up to 10,000 workers across the UK are required to wear electronic tagging devices, according to a report from the GMB trade union.

by Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin solicitors, e-mail:employment@lewissilkin.com
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Big names such as Asda, B&Q and online grocer Ocado are among the companies using the technology to communicate with their warehouse pickers. Cue for the GMB's leaders to foam at the mouth about 'battery farms', 'prison surveillance' and people being 'reduced to robots'. Employers argue that tagging merely improves customer service and makes life easier for staff by directing them to collect goods required for delivery. But what are the legal constraints?

Coincidentally, a major part of the Information Commissioner's new code on data protection and employment covers monitoring at work. While not expressly alluding to tagging, it stresses that employers must be clear about the nature, extent and purpose of staff monitoring, and keep the information obtained secure. So a retailer could not lawfully use tagging for policing workers' performance, rest breaks or toilet visits unless it was upfront about it. Legal compliance issues aside, Big Brother employers must balance the efficiency gains from using surveillance against the risks of alienating workers and increasing staff turnover.

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