FSU launch findings of major study into Surveillance in the workplace

18 April 2023

Study findings indicate huge concern from workers about surveillance and data collection by their employers.

The Financial Services Union has today published results from a research project seeking to establish the experiences and attitudes of financial services employees to technological change in their workplace.

The FSU first commissioned this research in partnership with the University of Limerick in 2019 and again in 2021 with a follow up survey carried out by the FSU in 2023.

The findings are based on interviews conducted with financial services employees by the University of Limerick pre-COVID19 in 2019 followed by a large-scale survey of employees during COVID19 restrictions in 2021 with a further survey of members conducted by the FSU in February 2023.

Commenting on the results John O’Connell said:

“A notable finding was the extent to which respondents were unaware of the level of employer tracking and monitoring, with over half indicating they did not know if their office or home computer was monitored. Almost one quarter of respondents reported that their employer had increased data collection on their work since they started home working while 28% said data collection had stayed at the same level.

Two thirds of respondents felt surveillance was demoralising and indicated that surveillance increased their levels of stress while over half felt that surveillance at work was a violation of privacy.

A majority felt that surveillance indicated a lack of trust on the part of their employer (60%) while an even larger percentage (63%) felt that the use of surveillance erodes trust.

Surveillance of staff by their employers and how data on staff is collected, stored, and used was always an issue that needed to be addressed.  However, these findings point to a growing concern from staff and the need for regulation and legislation to keep pace with the changing nature of technology.”

Commenting on the results Michelle O’Sullivan from the Kemmy Business School in the University of Limerick who carried out the survey said:

“Given the increasing pervasiveness of technology at work, this large study shows that much work needs to be done in collective bargaining and government regulation to address workers’ concerns on technological surveillance.  Unions must have a right to negotiate with employers on the introduction and control of technology to protect workers’ interests. In front-line financial services work, technological surveillance has been used to push employees to increase sales, leading to significant stress and this needs to be addressed.

Collective bargaining would also benefit employers because at present significant proportions of financial services employees believe technological surveillance has negative effects on the employment relationship, such as regarding trust, and employers should be concerned about this.”

Commenting Deputy Maurice Quinlivan TD. Chairperson of the Enterprise, Trade and Employment Committee in the Dail said:

“ I welcome the report of the Financial Services Union on the employee experiences of technological surveillance in the Financial Services sector. Since the Covid pandemic working from home for many has become the new normal in terms of how employees perform their work. For many the time spent in the office is significantly less than the time working outside the office environment.

This report is very welcome, and it highlights some of the challenges faced by both employers and employees as we embrace this new way of working. There is of course a need for employers to have recourse to assess the work performances of employees but this needs to be balanced with an employee right to complete this work without the intrusive use of technological surveillance, particularly while they are in their home environment. An overwhelming number of respondents believe there is a statutory duty on employees to consult trade unions before introducing automated decision making systems and I believe this should be done. “

Concluding Mr O’Connell said:

“The FSU will be presenting the report to the Chairperson of the Enterprise, Trade and Employment Committee of the Dail, Deputy Maurice Quinlivan TD. today and are requesting the Business Committee in Dail Eireann to commission a report into the use of surveillance in the workplace and legislative changes that may be required to best protect workers and provide for workers voice on this issue”.


To read the report click HERE