Survey: Employees Want Tighter On-the-Job Security Procedures

April 22, 2002
The majority of employees surveyed say their employers should strengthen identification procedures for entering the premises and accessing computer systems and many thought that more detailed background checks are in order.

The majority of employees interviewed for a recent Harris interactive survey said their employers should strengthen identification procedures for entering the premises and accessing computer systems. They also felt employers should conduct more detailed background checks on job applicants, and 35 percent thought their employers should do more detailed background checks on current employees.

The news wasn''t all bad: Most employees, some 76 percent, consider their employer''s privacy rules and practices to be pretty good to excellent. For example, a whopping 94 percent say their employer has never released any personal information about them in a way they felt was improper.

The new employment privacy findings are the initial round of results from the first major national survey in a decade of business, government and non-profit sector employees and managers on employee privacy issues. The survey was commissioned by Privacy & American Business (P&AB).

"This survey finds a trend that runs counter to current findings of consumer privacy surveys," observed Alan Westin, a professor at Columbia University and president of P&AB. In consumer privacy surveys, 80 percent to 90 percent of those interviewed say they are concerned about how businesses are collecting and using their personal information, and express low trust in business privacy notices. "Here, confidence in employers is high, though important issues are emerging," he added.

Westin said there is "an unmistakable post-September 11 tone in these findings. Clearly, workers want to know that employers are doing everything they can to keep inappropriate people out of workplaces. This attitude formed by recent events may explain to some extent why Americans in this survey seem more accepting and open-minded about their employer practices as they relate to privacy."

The survey found that four out of five employees and managers say they would be willing to have an ID card issued by their employer that would include their photo, basic personnel information and a biometric identifier, such as a fingerprint, to enhance workplace security.

Issues of concern to employees include:

  • About one in four employees are concerned about how their employer handles employee medical and health information.
  • Four out of five respondents do not believe their employers monitor their work in a way they consider improper.
  • Strong majorities of respondents believe it is acceptable for employers to include checks for criminal convictions (91 percent), official determinations of misconduct by professionals such as doctors or stockbrokers (84 percent) and whether a job resume contains false information (92 percent) in routine background checks. However, a majority of employees feel it would not be acceptable to check whether an applicant has ever filed for bankruptcy (76 percent) or is a party to a civil lawsuit (67 percent).
  • Though 84 percent say it is important that their employer write and communicate to them a general employee privacy policy covering all uses of employee information and privacy-security issues at the workplace, only 38 percent of all employed adults say their current employer does this.

by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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