The Big Question: Should employees be microchipped?

Some organisations have trialled implanting microchips under the skin of employees

Some organisations have trialled implanting microchips under the skin of employees - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

An aid to workplace efficiency or an infringement of privacy? - three experts give their views

Carole Burman from MAD-HR

Carole Burman from MAD-HR

The Question:

A number of tech companies have developed microchips that can be embedded under the skin of employees and used to enable them to access secure buildings or pay for meals with one swipe of the hand. But unions have voiced concerns that the devices may be used to micromanage staff and will chip away at people’s right to privacy.

Can micro-chipping employees help with workplace efficiency or do the potential risks outweigh the benefits?

‘It sends a shiver down my spine’- Carole Burman, MAD-HR

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Today’s business owner is acutely aware of the power of technology to create positive and transformational impact in their workplace.

Will Thomas, University of Suffolk

Will Thomas, University of Suffolk - Credit: Archant

Few would want to go back to the days before our super speedy computers, global connectivity or our incredibly intelligent smartphones.

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But, what the modern employer knows too, is that employee engagement, and relationships built around trust and respect are absolutely the key to business success.

HR has the word ‘HUMAN’ right there front and centre, so when I look at the mere suggestion of something like this, it sends a shiver down my spine.

We have to always remember that however efficient we might want a business to be, or how safe in terms of data and knowledge-share, we also ought to be prioritising the human needs of one another. Micro-chipping might look like a push for efficiency, but to my mind, it’s incredibly dangerous and would show a lack of dignity and support for individuals in today’s workplace.

‘It raises serious ethical concerns’ - Dr Will Thomas, University of Suffolk

Mark Thomas, managing director at Coderus

Mark Thomas, managing director at Coderus - Credit: Archant

The prospect of micro-chipping employees in order to enhance security, provide access to workplace systems or enable financial transactions raises serious ethical concerns. Outside of military settings, where concerns are different, such a scheme could only be justifiable if the benefits micro-chipping would bring are significant and critical to the ongoing viability of the business (for example by offering protection from security breaches). Neither of these tests seem to be met by any of the examples that have been provided so far of how a scheme would operate.

Even if the benefits are great, employers could not insist that employees consent to be micro-chipped. Before agreeing employees would need to understand issues such as: the range of current and potential future uses of the chip; how it is implanted; and how it might be removed when they leave their employer. Such concerns will lead many employees to be concerned about agreeing to receive a chip in the first place.

‘Embedded microchips can be a great addition towards a better society’ - Mark Thomas, Coderus

Nowadays wearable technology and apps have become part of our life and it’s not surprising that a rising number of tech companies have developed embedded microchips for their employees.

Besides the ethical concerns that, of course, are important and should be taken into consideration, these micro-chips can be beneficial for employees with health issues.

Tech can be a great enabler, as these embedded chips can support our body when it needs external support. Monitoring blood sugar will be a great help for employees suffering from diabetes as it will constantly monitor the levels of their blood sugar. Specific micro-chips also have the ability to offer partial sight to the visually-impaired and hearing to hearing-impaired staff.

One more indicated positive effect can be the ability of these micro-chips to control brain diseases such as epilepsy or neurological disorders in early stages. This can mean that the spectrum of potential employees can be even wider and a society with more equal opportunities for everyone.

Lastly, embedded technology can help with delivering personalised medication treatment, providing better health care and more targeted health results. Embedded microchips can be a great addition towards a better society with many job opportunities for everyone, as long as ethical issues such as privacy are always be considered.

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