BBC staff told to wear social distancing devices

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BBC staff in key locations have been told they must wear ‘proximity devices’ to aid social distancing on its premises.

The pager-like devices, which can be placed in a pocket or worn on a belt, buzz to alert the wearer if they have come within two metres of other people, using Bluetooth technology to measure proximity. There is no connection to wi-fi and no data about employees’ movements is stored.

In an email to staff, the BBC’s managing director Bob Shennan said the requirement to wear the device would apply to some “broadcast critical” employees.

The email said: “Social distancing proximity devices will be rolled out in key BBC locations to help maintain safe social distancing.

“Anyone coming into those offices will be asked to wear the devices, which will alert wearers when they’re less than two metres apart from someone else.”

BBC staff will also be required to have lateral flow coronavirus tests. People who enter its premises four days a week will have to take the tests twice a week.

A BBC spokesperson said: “The vast majority of BBC staff continue to work as they have over recent months, either working remotely or in an office location if they are in service critical roles.

“For those in a BBC building, we’ve been following Covid-secure workplace guidelines throughout the pandemic.

“We continue to adhere to the two metres rule and we are rolling out social distancing proximity devices to support our staff in maintaining safe social distancing at all times.”

The devices will be picked up upon entry into BBC buildings and dropped off when they leave.

Technology companies appear to have taken advantage of the opportunities the Covid-19 pandemic has presented them. Numerous devices emerged or were adapted to help employers encourage social distancing, including smart wristbands, scanners and cameras.

Last year, employment lawyer Claire Hollins at Weightmans confirmed to Personnel Today that it was reasonable for an employer to ask staff to use such devices.

“The employer’s reasons for using the technology instead of other less intrusive enforcement methods will need to be explained and balanced against the employee’s objections. Where it is reasonable to require the technology to be worn and the employee’s objections have been considered and where possible addressed, it will be reasonable to compel employees to do so while in the workplace,” she said.

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