UK Workers and GPS workplace monitoring

How UK Employees React to GPS Tracking in the Workplace

New survey data reveals how and when employers track their employees

Perception of GPS tracking is negative for people who haven’t used it and positive for those who have.

Workplace GPS tracking: reality versus perception

TSheets surveyed 500 UK employees to uncover how they truly feel about GPS tracking at work, and there were plenty of surprises in store.* The survey found that 1 in 3 respondents has used GPS at work, which is similar to workplace GPS usage in the United States, Canada, and Australia

But one of the most interesting and noticeable findings from our survey is the difference between the actual versus perceived value of workplace monitoring.

Top Concerns About
GPS in the Workplace

Regardless of the respondents’ experience with GPS tracking, the technology was considered an invasion of privacy by most. But those who had not used GPS before showed much greater concerns across the board. Despite the concerns about personal privacy, two-thirds of the employees surveyed said they do not mind sharing their location with their employers.

Top concerns of those who had used GPS Top concerns of those who hadn’t used GPS.

Percentage of workers who quit their job because of GPS tracking.

Would employees quit their jobs due to GPS monitoring?

GPS tracking provokes a stronger reaction among respondents who have not used it for work. One in 10 said they might threaten to quit or quit their job if GPS tracking was introduced in the workplace.

How employees were tracked

Mobile apps and in-vehicle devices were identified as the two primary tracking methods. A significant number of the employees using these devices said they could not disable the GPS tracking system when finished work.

Chart of how employees were tracked while on the job.
Chart showing how workers had control over GPS tracking. 38% say they were unable to turn off GPS tracking, which is illegal.

When employees were tracked

Most employees were only tracked by GPS during work hours but as many as 1 in 5 said they were being tracked 24 hours a day, which is a potential breach of the Data Protection Act.

Chart of when employees were tracked via GPS by their employer.
Chart of when employees were tracked via GPS by their employer.

Is GPS tracking legal in the UK?

Whilst British employment law doesn’t mention GPS tracking specifically, it does pay close attention to the way personal data is handled through the Data Protection Act 1988 (DPA) — especially if that data can be used to identify someone or if it intrudes on their private life.

Are employers breaking the law?

The Data Protection Act requires employers to justify their use of workplace monitoring before they introduce it, and to consider other, less intrusive methods before they do. The law is complex and there is no substitute for good legal advice, but Employment Practices Code is a good source of information.

5% of UK workers said their employer did not inform them in any way.

Chart of how employees were notified about GPS tracking at work.

How Were Employees Informed of GPS Usage?

The ‘when’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ should be part and parcel of the most basic workplace monitoring, but our survey shows it may not be the norm. Consent was only requested from 10% of those tracked at work, with a meagre 6% aware that they could withdraw their consent once it’s given.

What Do UK Surveillance
Laws Really Say?

To paraphrase Part 3 of the code under ‘Monitoring at Work’, surveillance must be justified in one or more of the following:

  • The benefits should outweigh adverse impact.
  • Emphasis must be placed on being fair to individual workers.
  • Intrusion should be no more than necessary.
  • Surveillance cannot be used to manage employees or measure their performance.
  • Employers must consult with trade union representatives or the workers themselves.

Employers can only use GPS tracking to improve business operations, without interfering with the individual’s fundamental right to privacy when they are on and off the clock.

But when we asked British employees why their employer used GPS tracking, only 57% of them identified positive intentions like improving safety and efficiency.

Other potential breaches of UK law

Our survey data also shows that some employers may be flouting the law by using GPS tracking to measure their performance or even to check where they went on their breaks.

Is invasion of privacy or covert monitoring ever justified?

The quick answer is ‘yes’ — but rarely. The DPA is clear in that employers are almost never privy to their employees’ private lives or where they go during breaks. This would only be allowed in extreme instances where there are grounds to suspect criminal activity or serious malpractice which can endanger company assets and/or other people.

A chart describing the reasons GPS tracking was introduced to the workplace.
Chart showing the benefits of GPS tracking of workers.

What Are the Benefits of GPS?

The majority of employees said GPS made them feel safer at work and that the technology helped to improve efficiency and accountability in the workplace.

Meanwhile, employees who travel for work felt that GPS was useful for tracking mileage and travel time more accurately, ensuring they were duly compensated and reimbursed. However, opinions were split on whether GPS tracking helped build trust.

Why do we enable
location services?

Emotions like trust and need are the major deciding factors when we
decide whether to use location services on our apps.

When do you turn on location services?

Chart of reasons surveyed workers use GPS tracking apps outside of work (have used GPS tracking at work).
Chart of reasons surveyed workers use GPS tracking apps outside of work.
A chart showing which apps people use with location services turned on.

Do We Feel the Same About GPS in Personal Apps?

The survey respondents appear much more comfortable with using GPS technology in personal apps than workplace apps. As many as three-quarters said they use GPS when driving, for example, and more than two-thirds said they enable it on weather apps.

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* Methodology:

In August 2017, TSheets commissioned Pollfish to survey 500 UK employees about GPS tracking and workplace monitoring. TSheets designed and paid for the survey, but the respondents were not connected to TSheets and all responses were anonymous. The respondents were all over the age of 18 and "employed for wages". For more information and media inquiries, please contact media [at]