UK employers consider microchipping their staff

British employers are considering microchipping their staff using a similar system to that used on household pets.

12 Nov 2018| News

Photo by Chris Ried

The idea has already taken off in Sweden, where “implant parties” are becoming commonplace, according to the Telegraph, which spoke to a provider of the microchips called Biohax.

Founder of Biohax, Jowan Österlund, told the newspaper that he had experienced such a significant degree of interest in his products from UK companies that it he was planning to set up a new office in London next year.

The chips, which are about the size of a grain of rice, are inserted between the thumb and forefinger and can be to manage workers’ access to secure areas, as well as in transactions such as buying food from the canteen, entering the building or accessing printers.

Mr Österlund said he was in talks with legal and financial firms in the UK, one of which employs hundreds of thousands of people.

“These companies have sensitive documents they are dealing with,” he explained. “[The chips] would allow them to set restrictions for whoever.”

“There’s no losing it, there’s no dropping it, there’s no forgetting it. There’s always going to be an ultimate backup,” he said, adding that he believes the chips are also less likely to be hacked than other forms of security.

Each chip costs around £150 and can be installed in a matter of seconds. The technology uses near field communication – such as that used in contactless bank cards – to perform necessary tasks.

Steven Northam, a UK businessman, had a chip fitted last year and has fitted all of the directors at one of his companies – Incuhive – with one.

“It can have a huge impact on society and business,” he told the Telegraph. “In the future, we’re all likely to have one.”

But the new technology is raising concerns among workers’ organisations and business associations alike.

Speaking to the Guardian, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady 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. There are obvious risks involved, and employers must not brush them aside, or pressure staff into being chipped.”

A spokesperson for the CBI was equally shocked by the news, telling the Guardian: “While technology is changing the way we work, this makes for distinctly uncomfortable reading. Firms should be concentrating on rather more immediate priorities and focusing on engaging their employees.”