Barclays not promoting 'open culture' with employee monitoring system

“An open and transparent work culture should always be encouraged.” The reaction of an employment lawyer in response to Barclays putting an end to their employee monitoring platform, which told them how long their staff were taking for breaks and at their desk.

This is what Philip Richardson, partner & head of employment law at Stephensons Solicitors believes. The bank received criticism from various lawyers and led to a whistelblower at the bank informing City A.M of the employee monitoring system.

The bank said that it was using the system as a pilot at it’s investment side of its business in Canary Wharf.

Mr Richardson said:

An open and transparent work culture should always be encouraged, however, the use of this technology to track the whereabouts of staff members does seem excessive. The pursuit of transparency in an organisation can also undermine trust and it’s important that employees feel like they can be left to get on with their jobs without constant monitoring. It’s not uncommon for employees to lodge formal complaints against their employers for excessive and overbearing micromanagement and it will be interesting to see whether the use of this type of technology could bring rise to legal claims in the future.

Visier, a people analytics company said:

Monitoring the amount of time people are spending bashing the keyboard is a perfect example of focusing on the wrong kind of data to encourage productivity and employee engagement. This sort of intense scrutiny is not only damaging to employee wellbeing, but it creates a false sense of achievement by associating ‘busy work’ with productivity.

Sapience Analytics, a US company who created the software, on its own website describes the tool as an “algorithm to analyse data and reveal work patterns. These insights are then shared with the team, department, or organisation.”

The bank said it is listening to the feedback of the pilot and in a statement said:

We always intended to listen to colleague feedback as part of this limited pilot which was intended to tackle issues such as individual over-working as well as raise general productivity.

However, Edward Houghton, head of research at the CIPD said:

Technologies like this may actually cause more harm than good. They can… create mistrust or low levels of trust for employees – employees can feel like they’re being watched and not trusted to do their own work effectively.

In August 2019, Vanessa Bell, head of employment law at Prettys, an Ispwich-based law firm gave a stark warning to companies that use workplace surveillance to monitor their employees to not take it “a step too far”.