Employee monitoring in the UK - WorkTime

May 10, 2023

11 min read

Employee monitoring in the United Kingdom

Employee monitoring is a system used to track and monitor the workflow of individual employees or an entire staff. With this set of tools, employers can effectively monitor and manage the work of their employees.

We at WorkTime have been assisting with employee monitoring in the United Kingdom for over 25 years.

Demand in employee monitoring in UK

Given the increase in remote working in the UK, including due to the pandemic, many employees have started working with employee monitoring. However, not only remote workers have been monitored, but also those working in the hybrid and office models, due to the increasing need for such tools.

According to the GetApp survey, 36% of employees in the UK started using employee monitoring software after the pandemic began.

The demand for employee monitoring in the UK is quite high, considering the fact that there are many professionals in this country whose work requires monitoring, and many companies utilize outsourced employees. Companies across various sectors seek employee monitoring solutions to improve productivity. Monitoring tools can track employees' activities, identify time wastage, and provide insights for optimizing workflows and resource allocation.

What businesses use employee monitoring in UK

Employee monitoring services are most often used in the UK by these companies:
  • IT companies
  • Legal companies
  • Insurance companies
  • Customer service companies
  • Companies using outsourcing or freelancers
The companies listed above turn to employee monitoring vendors more frequently than others because the nature of their work requires the implementation of control measures over employee activities. For instance, in the case of legal companies, employers are obligated to monitor employees' work to ensure that all tasks are carried out in compliance with the law and established norms within the company. Failure to adhere to these norms can hold the company liable for the actions of its employees. These aforementioned companies are abundant in the UK, making it one of the key consumers of employee monitoring services worldwide.

Employee monitoring in the UK is in high demand among IT companies, law firms, insurance companies, customer service companies, as well as companies that utilize outsourcing and hire freelancers.

Computerized businesses in UK & monitoring

Computerized businesses in the UK are among the primary consumers of software for monitoring employees. This includes software developers and enterprises that extensively utilize computers, laptops, or smartphones for their work. The UK is home to numerous industry giants that heavily rely on computers or laptops for their operations, such as:
  • Cisco
  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Apple
  • Samsung
Considering the presence of these influential players in their respective fields, it is reasonable to assume that there are also many lesser-known emerging companies in the UK.

Employee monitoring is highly beneficial for computerized businesses as it helps enhance productivity and cost savings for companies.

Implications for business after Brexit

In general, following the UK's exit from the EU, there haven't been significant problems for businesses that would hinder their workflow. The policy of monitoring employees has remained unchanged, as the main regulatory laws in the EU were specifically rewritten for the UK after Brexit. However, there are still some noteworthy points to consider.

Brexit has resulted in trade barriers that cost Britain nearly £13 billion, approximately 16% of its previous trade turnover, according to calculations by the CER research institute.

The main challenge after Brexit is the lack of imports from other countries, which has significantly impacted many businesses and caused shortages of materials for production. Moreover, leaving the European Union has altered the entry policy for the country, leading to major changes in the flow of specialists from other countries. IT companies and computerized enterprises have faced difficulties in finding employees, resulting in a shortage of skilled workers within the country. To address the shortage of specialists, outsourcing has come to the rescue, allowing companies to compensate for the lack of workers by utilizing professionals from third countries. However, this has also led to increased demand for software monitoring of employees, which aids in controlling remote workers, as reported by the BBC.

In office, remote, hybrid settings in UK & monitoring

Office work

The office work model remains widely used in British companies because it allows employers to directly monitor employees' work activities and ensure they are focused on work rather than engaging in non-work related tasks. However, even in the office work model, employee monitoring is prevalent. This is because not all employees appreciate close supervision by managers, and hiring a manager requires time and financial resources. Companies can leverage monitoring software, which can perform the job as effectively as a manager.

Remote work

Following the pandemic, remote working has gained significant momentum, and Forbes predicts that the number of remote employees will continue to increase through 2023. Companies that employ remote workers often rely on employee monitoring due to the inherent challenge of tracking employees' activities in this work model. Monitoring becomes an essential means of controlling and managing employees' workflow.

Hybrid work

Hybrid work serves as a compromise between the office and remote work models. Many employers are cautious about full telecommuting due to the difficulty in monitoring and controlling employees' activities, as there is a concern that employees may not be working during designated hours. The hybrid model is frequently adopted as a compromise. Employers commonly utilize monitoring when employees work from home in the hybrid model. During the height of the pandemic, this approach helped reduce the risk of infections while maintaining worker productivity levels.

WorkTime monitoring is great for employees on remote, office and hybrid work models.

Outsourcing business in UK & monitoring

In the UK, companies extensively utilize outsourcing to alleviate their own staff workload and achieve cost savings. It simplifies business operations as it is more economical to hire specialists from other countries, such as India, and pay them lower salaries compared to regular employees while still obtaining highly skilled professionals. Additionally, certain responsibilities can be outsourced to external companies. The use of outsourcing is prominent in various industries in the UK, including:
  • Developers: Software testers, Computer technicians, System administrators.
  • Law firms: Office cleaning, Accounting tasks.
  • IT: Managers, Support, Translators, Accountants.
  • Financial Services: back office support, data entry, customer service.
  • Retail: supply chain coordination, e-commerce operations, customer service.

Outsourced employee monitoring is a common practice, as it helps ensure quality control over employee performance.

The examples provided above are just a few instances where outsourcing can be applied, but the scope is much broader in reality. Outsourcing can be implemented across various sectors, and it is evident why companies that utilize outsourcing or hire freelancers often rely on employee monitoring. They aim to maintain quality control over the work process, particularly considering that workers from other countries frequently operate remotely.

Why do companies in the UK use outsourcing?

Typically, companies that outsource in the UK use it to reduce staff costs, for example a software company can outsource testing tasks to South African staff and office cleaning tasks to another cleaning company in the UK, so companies can save significant money on salaries.

Companies in the UK use outsourcing to save money, and to relieve their own staff.

Outsourcing enables companies to tap into a global talent pool and gain access to specialized skills and expertise that may not be available internally. This is particularly beneficial for tasks or projects that require specific knowledge or experience.

WorkTime is great as a solution for monitoring outsourced employees and freelancers.

Overall, outsourcing allows companies in the UK to leverage external resources, reduce costs, access specialized skills, and improve operational efficiency, enabling them to focus on their core business and gain a competitive advantage in the market.

The law & employee monitoring in UK

In the UK, employee monitoring is regulated by a set of laws and regulations that all parties involved in monitoring must adhere to. Since Brexit, there have not been significant changes in the law regarding employee monitoring, but it is important to be aware of a few key points: UK GDPR The UK General Data Protection Regulation is the primary data protection regulation that also governs monitoring in terms of information and data. It is analogous to the EU GDPR and has similar provisions, which came into effect after Brexit. DPA Under the Data Protection Act, personal data and an employee's private life must be protected by law from unauthorized intrusion by third parties. Employers cannot use surveillance cameras, wiretaps, or monitor internet traffic without the employee's consent and without providing prior notification to the employee. RIPA The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act is a law that regulates the interception and unauthorized access to telephone conversations, message interception, and other actions related to violations of data privacy.

The main laws that govern employee monitoring in the UK are the UK GDPR, DPA, and RIPA.

For more detailed information on UK laws related to employee monitoring, you can refer to the article "41 most asked questions on UK employee monitoring laws"

Privacy expectations in UK

In the UK, privacy is highly valued, and employees expect their employers to respect their personal boundaries and privacy. Invasive monitoring practices can raise concerns, as the use of tools that may encroach upon an employee's personal boundaries is generally unwelcome in the country. In contrast to other jurisdictions, in the UK privacy is protected not only by human rights and data protection legislation, but also the common law instruments, such as the specific tort of “misuse of private information”. This tort was shaped after the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA 1998) enactment and coming into force. - Excerpt from an article by a private UK lawyer.

The monitoring model employed by WorkTime is non-invasive, meaning it does not have the capacity to intrude upon a person's privacy or cause harm to their personal boundaries.

Monitoring - what’s too invasive for the UK?

In the UK, the respect for privacy and confidentiality of personal data is of utmost importance. Therefore, the use of invasive monitoring practices can give rise to ethical and legal concerns. The following features are often considered too invasive:
  • Telephone eavesdropping
  • Screen content monitoring
  • GPS tracking outside of work hours
  • Text interception
These functionalities can be perceived as spying, and many employees find them excessively intrusive. Such monitoring practices are likely to be seen as problematic and disruptive to their work rather than helpful in their workflow. Two studies conducted by the Harvard Business Review have challenged the notion that increased supervision leads to improved employee behavior. In one study involving 100 employees, respondents indicated that heightened supervision actually increases the likelihood of employees taking unauthorized breaks, disregarding instructions, and engaging in other negative behaviors.

The use of invasive monitoring measures can potentially have a detrimental effect on workplace performance.

WorkTime for non-invasive employee monitoring in UK

With over 25 years of experience serving customers in the UK market, WorkTime understands the importance of privacy and confidentiality of employees' personal space. Based on this understanding, WorkTime has developed a non-invasive monitoring model that aligns well with the values of the UK. This approach ensures that the ethical and legal considerations regarding employee monitoring are upheld. WorkTime offers a range of functions that can greatly assist companies in their employee monitoring efforts. These include monitoring productivity, activity levels, application performance, and workplace presence. With these tools, employers can effectively determine if employees are working as expected and if they are engaged in their assigned projects during designated work hours. This makes WorkTime monitoring an excellent choice for various industries in the UK, including IT companies, insurance institutions, law firms, computerized enterprises, and more.

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