Will microchipping employees become the norm?
The age of technology means that we are connected in a way that we have never been before. Most of us are tuned in via phone and email at every waking hour, with a worryingly large percentage of us checking our phones as the first thing we do and also the last before sleep. Whilst this behaviour has many advantages, it too brings problems, especially to work-life balance.
Because people are reachable at all hours it’s not uncommon for some employers to abuse this and use the development in technology to their benefit. Not only is it becoming more common for employees to be contacted out of hours, but businesses are also using technology to check up on prospective employees, follow the out of work activities of current work staff and even monitor schedules.
And now the news that some companies may be considering microchipping employees has raised fresh concern from trade bodies such as the Trades Union Congress (TUC) which believes this could present a very real threat to employee privacy. The news has broken that a Swedish microchip manufacturer has been approached by a number of ‘major UK legal and financial firms’ who, the company says, have ‘hundreds of thousands’ of workers.
Biohax founder Jowan Österlund is quoted in an article for the Sunday Telegraph as saying: "These companies have sensitive documents they are dealing with. The subdermal microchips would allow them to set restrictions for whoever." Already a popular practice in Sweden, microchipping staff could certainly be useful for businesses meaning that staff don’t have to carry a physical pass to swipe in and out of buildings (which could be lost), work cars could be controlled and monitored and sensitive documents could be protected with special rules which only allow particular employees to access them.
However the idea of microchipping workers, much like we do animals, has naturally caused outrage from some who believe that whilst employees would be told of all the benefits, they might not be made aware of how else their personal data is being used. The TUC responded to the news by saying: "We know workers are already concerned that some employers are using tech to control and micromanage, whittling away their staff's right to privacy. Microchipping would give bosses even more power and control over their workers."
The microchips, which are generally about the size of a grain of rice and inserted in the hand, could also hold valuable data such as where someone is at any given time, details about their health and other personal information. A spokesperson for the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) told the Guardian: “While technology is changing the way we work, this makes for distinctly uncomfortable reading. Firms should be concentrating on rather more immediate priorities and focusing on engaging their employees.”
With a growing trend of employees using social media, GPS tracking and passes to check time spent on lunch and even the toilet – it is understandable that some might be concerned that microchipped information could be abused. The jury is out for now about whether the UK will follow in the footsteps of Sweden, but it’s safe to say that it’ll take some convincing…