The technical developments of the last twenty years or so have forever changed our workplaces and the way we work, such that the break between work and leisure has become a blur.
The ASU has been dealing with a number of cases recently involving social media, GPS tracking, camera monitoring in call centres and surveillance through the employees own computer. Now discussion has begun around employers wanting devices to be worn that track your movements and health.
Of course all these technical developments have consequences in relation to matters such Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) and privacy issues. Members should always contact the ASU if they have any concerns regarding these sorts of matters.
Social media and work
The development of social media has given rise to a number of issues at the workplace such as defamation, disclosure of confidential information, fiduciary responsibilities and privacy. As a general principle members are advised against using their Twitter or Facebook accounts for discussing work issues especially if those comments could reveal confidential information or are disparaging in anyway.
It doesn’t matter if you have only made the comments or pictures about your workplace to the private section of your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat account – your employer can still take action against you if it is prejudicial to their interests.
You should be mindful that varying circumstances such as a fallout with a work colleague who has access to your sites or changes of policy by these sites could expose your comments/pictures to more people than you intended. Also there are now ‘apps’ that can be used to hack your account.
Several cases concerning unfair dismissal have occurred where a central issue was the inappropriate use of such social media sites and many of the decisions have favoured the employer’s interpretation that the inappropriate use of social media can be cause for dismissal.
Monitoring at work
The ASU currently has a number of disputes concerning monitoring at work which include constant computer surveillance at work so as to identify if the worker is taking unapproved breaks, or is not keeping up with required outputs regardless of their fairness.
More and more staff, especially in call centres, are being monitored through technology at work be it through recording devices, cameras or their own computers which are linked into their managers system. A recent issue involved a member being forced to use GPS tracking so he could be checked on as to his whereabouts.
All of these issues raise questions not only of privacy but also as to what is reasonable in regard to such things as performance targets/KPI’s.
Is it reasonable to expect that a call centre worker must average calls at 6 minutes each for the whole day? The Surveillance Act 1999 provides for restrictions to the use of surveillance and monitoring devices at the workplace however there are no laws concerning how much output you should be providing at work. This issue only ever seems to be addressed when someone is dismissed or there is an OHS issue concerning stress.
Unfortunately, as we live in an increasing commercially competitive climate some employers will seek to employ all sorts of initiatives to increase productivity, spying on you through modern technology has become a part of that.
If you have concerns about these sorts of issues you should research the company policies (if they have any) to see what they say about employee rights and responsibilities and contact the ASU.
Technology and OHS
Whilst on the topic of OHS, a recent article in The Age contemplated the idea health wristbands could be used by an employer to monitor workplace health and even work output.
Whilst this brings up all sorts of issues recent court decisions have provided for, in certain circumstances, the ability for an employer to conduct a medical examination of an employee. Given the costs and potential litigation an employer could well argue the need to monitor an employees health given their OHS responsibilities and a fitness tracker wristband or even some smart phone app could be just the tool to facilitate such an arrangement.
This article has attempted to address some problems with the advent of modern technology in the workplace but is in no way exhaustive. Being fired by text messaging, secret recordings of meetings by employees and computers being used as instruments to monitor work hours are other issues we have recently had to deal with.
The important thing to remember that as a member you should seek our advice if you have any problems or are in doubt regarding a particular issue. As a member we are here to assist you.