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Lying to take leave? Tech may catch you

In Britain, companies are trying long distance lie-detectors which try to tell from the tone of a worker’s voice if he or she is lying to feign sickness, reports Ruchi Hajela.

india Updated: May 16, 2008 00:27 IST
Ruchi Hajela

They have tried office spies and closed-circuit cameras. What will companies do next to keep employees in check? In Britain, companies are trying long distance lie-detectors which try to tell from the tone of a worker’s voice if he or she is lying to feign sickness.

That’s like a possessive girlfriend or zealous mother using some extra-sensory intervention to call the bluff.

In Britain, "pulling a sickie" is said to cost billions of pounds to companies with one out of eight sick calls thought to be bogus, the Press Trust of India says in a report on a computer that checks a voice to find out if it is steady and reliable. The process is called Voice Risk Analysis — and claiming you have a hoarse throat may be the best way out for desperate leave-seekers.

Employers also have now network technologies that enable the computer screens of workers to be monitored remotely.

"Take control of any user, log off/disconnect any user," advertises the Mumbai-based Enjay Network Solutions.

In India, call centres have an absentee problem, but the industry has odd working hours that make many excuses circumstantially valid. "Absenteeism is more of a problem in manufacturing industries," said Rajesh AR, vice-president at human resource firm Teamlease.

"There is a question of whether a recorded voice would hold against a person in court. At best, this would work to scare people off," said Vishal Chhiber of Kelly Services India.

"The practice goes against ethics and employee rights," he said, adding absenteeism may be the symptom, but lack of motivation may be the disease.