Time to Pay Workers for Data Produced at Work

With the incidence of workplace monitoring increasing during the pandemic lockdown, new research shows that workers should be compensated for the secondary use of data gathered in the course of their employment.

The Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology have made a submission to a NSW inquiry into the future of work, arguing that information gathered through workplace monitoring and surveillance should be treated as a work output and covered by workplace laws and regulations.

The submission notes the breadth of workplace monitoring to acquire workplace data in industries as diverse as logistics, transport, education and office work.

After extensive consultation with unions and academics, the Centre for Responsible Technology shows the need to rethink the control and use of data produced in the workplace, including:

    • Creating a right for workers and their unions to access how workplace data is being used and stored
    • For value produced through workplace monitoring to be included in calculating productivity gains when wages are being negotiated
    • For workers to have a right to be engaged and consulted about the way their personal information changes the design of their jobs
    • To explore models of holding data in trusts, that would deliver ongoing benefit to the workers whose labour generates it

“The collection and use of data generated by workers is a complex issue that, to its credit, the NSW Parliament is investigating,” said Peter Lewis, director of the Centre for Responsible Technology.

“The workplace is being transformed by data science—management systems are able to provide employers with real-time reports of time on screen and even keystrokes—but it should not be a simple case of allowing employers to extract this information as a raw material.

“The data and information produced by workers has real value: in terms of driving more intense workflows, human redundancy or in the secondary market for large pools of data.

“The reality is that the value of workplace data is created through the hard work of Australians, it is only right that any value it creates should be shared.”

The full submission can be found here