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The monitoring of tele-homeworkers in the UK: legal and managerial implications

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Abstract

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine the practical and legal complexities associated with tele-homeworking arrangements in light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, the study focusses on organisational practices and outcomes relating to the monitoring and surveillance of employees. Drawing on relevant UK legislation and illustrative case law examples, the study demonstrates the challenges and legal implications associated with tele-homeworking. Design/methodology/approach: This study is based on a review of the literature and an examination of the EU and UK laws applicable to various employer and employee concerns that stem from tele-homeworking. Findings: Tele-homeworking can be advantageous to both employers and employees, however, there are a number of growing concerns surrounding the monitoring of such workers. Developing technologies can act as a catalyst for legal disputes and the advances in workforce monitoring and surveillance reveal the complex challenges faced by both employers and employees. The indiscriminate monitoring of staff can result in claims of violations to the privacy rights of workers, breach of contract and discrimination claims. Several policy implications associated with monitoring tele-homeworkers surface from the analysis, including the need to ensure that any proposed surveillance is legitimate, proportionate and transparent. Originality/value: The paper is beneficial in providing legal insights into the topical and continuing complexities associated with the monitoring of tele-homeworkers. The exogenous shock of COVID-19 has demanded the reorganisation of work. The extensive and developing capabilities that employers have at their disposal to engage in employee monitoring, give rise to a greater possibility of legal challenges by workers. The study serves to draw attention to various surveillance concerns and highlights the importance of employers undertaking an evaluation of their monitoring practices and complying with the legal framework.

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