13/09/2022
08:45 - 09:30
Online

Securing workers’ data rights: “it’s the software, stupid”?

The enforcement of data protection rules at work is facing a daunting challenge. While much of workplace surveillance and data gathering is illegal, it continues at an accelerated pace, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic.  

The institutions formally in charge of enforcing data protection law at work – the Data Protection Authorities – are understaffed and do not consider employment a priority. The institutions that are interested in the workplace and possess the legitimacy to act, are trade unions and works councils. But they often lack the expertise and are not present in many workplaces. What should we do then, to secure workers’ rights in a digitised environment?  

The design of software that is used in the workplace is key. Software can facilitate transparency to workers about data-gathering and make it possible for them to exercise their legal rights. It can also aid worker organisation and representation, but right now it often does not, or the opposite. By focusing on the design of software systems, as opposed to individual and haphazard enforcement, worker agency can be greatly strengthened.  

The design of human resource and enterprise software is difficult to influence, as developers often operate globally and use IP and trade secrecy laws to prevent scrutiny of their software. Therefore, we need new institutions that combine trade unions and civil society, together with universities and public authorities across the EU to facilitate the certification and auditing of software systems for the workplace, from a worker perspective.  

About the Employment Policy Breakfast Series – The employment We Want

In this series of policy breakfast meetings, European experts and policy-makers presented potential policy solutions to tackle diverse aspects pertaining to employment. Discussants were invited to comment on the current state of play and policy development, and then the floor was open for interactions from the audience to challenge and strengthen the proposals.

Labour markets are changing and we need a very diligent public sector to avoid the quality and quantity of jobs being compromised further.
What are the initiatives that can be taken? There are plenty!
In this Policy Breakfast Series on “The Employment We Want” we focus on four policies that could help shape a European employment agenda in the near future:

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