Concern has been raised that remote workers could be forced to accept technology that monitors the number of mouse clicks they make in a minute.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has warned artificial intelligence tools could also be used to track the amount of time spent on social media.
In a submission to the Department of Employment on the introduction of the right to request remote working, the ICTU urged the Government to develop clear guidance on how employers can monitor employees working remotely.
In the submission, ICTU social policy officer Dr Laura Bambrick warned working from homes or hubs could involve technology that can count keystrokes and emails, or even use photographic records taken via webcam.
“Trust is crucial for remote working arrangement to be effective,” the ICTU said.
Dr Bambrick said employers, remote workers and office-based colleagues needed to trust that work will be completed in a timely manner and that productivity will not suffer due to remote working.
An employer is already permitted to monitor activities within limits, she said, such as monitoring the use of the company’s phone and email.
“However, all monitoring must be necessary, legitimate and proportionate to workers’ right to privacy,” the ICTU said.
“An employer’s ICT policy must clearly make workers aware of any monitoring and must set out why monitoring may take place, the nature of the monitoring, how information will be used, and who will have access to it.
“Covert surveillance is only permitted in exteme cases, such as if there are grounds to suspect criminal activity or serious malpractice, and only for a limited period.”
AI-driven technology used to monitor employee activity while working from home can count the number of mouse clicks, keystrokes, emails in an hour
The ICTU said it was concerned by “the general trend” towards the use of AI-powered technologies by employers, for purposes including candidate selection, performance evaluation and redundancy decisions.
“AI-driven technology used to monitor employee activity while working from home can count the number of mouse clicks, keystrokes, emails in an hour, record time spent on social media sites, and take photographic ‘timecards’ every 10 minutes via a webcam,” it said.
“In the EU draft regulations on the use of AI applications, published last week, AI systems used in employment, worker management, and access to platform work were classed as high-risk.”
Dr Bambrick said for many workers, flexible and remote working was not just an optional “nice to have” perk of the job, but vital to be able to enter or remain in employment.
“Congress, therefore, recommends the legislation requires employers to publish flexible and remote working options in job adverts and gives the new postholder the right to take up the advertised flexibility from day one,” the ICTU said.