One third of Canadian employees being monitored at work – but has HR told them?

The Working for Workers Act demands that employers let employees know they're being watched – so why do so many workers remain unsure over their company policy?

One third of Canadian employees being monitored at work – but has HR told them?

One in five or 18% of employees have revealed that they are unsure if their employers are actively using surveillance tools to monitor their activities, according to a new report, as Canadian lawmakers scramble to protect employees by introducing monitoring legislations.

A new Capterra report said the finding implies a "lack of transparency and communication of policies on workplace surveillance and employee consent."

However, 35% of the report's respondents said that they work for a company that uses one employee monitoring tool, 28% of whom have been using them even before the pandemic, while seven per cent only started after the pandemic broke out.

On the other hand, a bigger 47% of workers surveyed said their employers are not using employee tracking software, but the report noted that this may "vary depending on their position in the company."

According to Capterra, management-level employees were more likely to report that they were not under workplace surveillance compared to entry-level workers, suggesting that employee surveillance may be used more for lower-ranked staff.

This may be because of employees' uncertainty over their company's surveillance practices, said the report, as less experienced employees were more likely unsure about their organisation's monitoring policies than managers, who the report said may have had something to do with the implementation of surveillance regulations in the first place.

Monitoring legislation

The recent results of the Capterra report suggest a possible transparency gap between employers and employees about the organisation's surveillance policies, an issue that lawmakers have been trying to address.

In Ontario, the provincial government recently passed a legislation that seeks to require employers to inform their workers if and how they are being monitored electronically.

"Businesses have more ways than ever before to monitor where their workers are and what they are doing," said Labour Minister Monte McNaughton in a previous statement. "Whether you are a delivery person being followed by GPS, a construction worker using a company phone, or an office worker logging in from home, you deserve to know if and how you are being tracked."

Read more: MP holds nationwide consultation on workplace surveillance

But what exactly are employers looking at when monitoring staff? The Capterra report revealed that the most monitored process at work in Canada is employee attendance (81%), followed by time management (57%), and then workload management (53%).

Do employees mind such policies? About 65% of the respondents said they do not believe that employee monitoring has an impact on the way they work, 19% said it would make them work less hard, while 16% said it would push them to work harder.

For the respondents, 39% of them agreed that having a monitoring software would give employers more insight to daily business operations, 38% think it will ensure staff are never underpaid, while 37% said it would help stop mistakes before they escalate.

Though these benefits come with concerns, as 72% said surveillance practices could still lead to invasion of privacy, and 71% said it could have a negative impact on trust.

What could employers do?

With the passing of Ontario's legislation on workplace surveillance, Patrick Stepanian, employment law consultant, told HRD that employers should be prepared to answer the questions of 'who, when, what, why, and how.'"

"Employers should consider using the least invasive monitoring tools and techniques to meet their needs," Stepanian also suggested.

Capterra, in its report, also said cautioned employers in implementing employee surveillance programmes so opinions on workplaces are not tainted.

It urged employers to ensure that monitoring activities are compliant with the latest privacy laws, that data collected are protected with cybersecurity measures, and information on monitoring practices are accessible to employees.

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