‘Disrupt or be disrupted’ – implanting a microchip

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A microchip is no bigger than a grain of rice and is usually placed in the flesh between the thumb and index finger. They can be used for an array of things such as to open a door with a simple wave of the hand, or to store medical data.

Many unions and other experts have stated that the arrival of microchips in the UK for employees represents a massive breach of privacy that should be avoided, rather than liberation. A manufacturer from Sweden, Biohax, told the Sunday Telegraph in an interview that it was in negotiations with a number of UK businesses, including some in the financial services sector, to microchip hundreds of employees. Biohax claims to have already fitted more than 3,000 implants across Europe, with each device costing approximately £150.

A UK based business, Bioteq, has already fitted approximately 150 people with microchip implants, including the companies own directors.

Frances Grady, the general secretary of TUC said, “We know workers are already concerned that some employers are using tech to control and micromanage, whittling away their staff’s right to privacy. Microchipping would give bosses even more power and control over their workers.”

For a large amount of the population, the thought of having a microchip implanted is one step too far and leaves the door ajar to dubious forms of monitoring employees’ communications and movements. However, for the companies that offer the implants it is not a question of ‘spying’ rather a question of convenience.

The founder of Bioteq, Steve John Northam, stated that his products should never be forced upon be and be implemented on a voluntary basis, “we don’t think any employer should be enforcing staff are microchipped. If staff wish to replace their access card with a microchip implant then that is no problem and is done by choice” (People Management, 2018).

The primary reason technology such as microchips have found themselves entering the world of work is due to assistive technology. This type of technology is the kind which is designed to help disabled workers in terms of access.

In the US the idea of microchipping an employee is significantly less contentious and in some areas of the tech world is already becoming common practice. Last year Three Square Market made headlines when it decided to implant a microchip in 33% of its employees to enable them to do without passes and computer logins. The implants are not equipped with GPS, but do gather data from their subjects.

The head of research and thought leadership for CIPD, Edward Houghton, stated the importance for employers to use extreme caution and diligence when considering the issue. “It’s difficult to find a justification for something that is so intrusive. There are a lot of risks associated with the quick uptake of these kind of practices without building or understanding the evidence”. He added that employees who don’t want an implant shouldn’t “feel excluded because they say no”, as this could potentially create tension in the workplace.

Danielle Parsons, an employment lawyer from Slater and Gordon, stated that employees should be consulted from the outset on the use of implants and should be able to “make an informed decision” on the issue. She further added that the crucial question is how the data will be handled.

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