Kuwait government staff must clock in with biometric scanners

Technology can bring benefits to HR if privacy fears are addressed, says expert

A new ruling by the Civil Service Council in Kuwait says public sector employees must use biometric fingerprinting to identify themselves when they arrive at and leave work.

The system will come into effect from 1 October and will be compulsory for all employees, including department heads, supervisors and employees who have served more than 25 years in the public sector, who are currently exempted.

Disabled or cognitively impaired workers are exempt from biometric ID scanning, providing they produce a certificate from the Public Authority of the Disabled stating why they are unable to use the fingerprinting system.

Stephen Mathias, HR and marketing consultant at SOS HR in Kuwait, said: “In the past few years, we have seen that technology has hugely contributed to management of human capital. This has become a cause of concern for many HR professionals, but is technology taking over HR?

“I think this could only be the case if HR does not keep up with technology. The new ruling for the public sector to use biometric fingerprinting in Kuwait is just another step towards HR keeping up with technology changes,” he added.

The trend globally, particularly in the US, is for private companies to use biometrics as a means to keep track of employees and to limit access to certain areas of the company building by using fingerprint scanners, iris scanners and voice recognition technology. This had led to some voicing concerns about the technology being too invasive – an issue to be considered by any organisation considering its use.

But Mathias believes that if biometric technology is used properly, it can bring benefits. He said: “Although there has not yet been any indication of enforcing biometrics in the private sector in the Middle East, I think it could benefit organisations to introduce this technology after careful evaluation of their resources.

“Biometrics has today become a huge benefit and vital tool for payroll processing. The introduction of biometrics as a tool in HR can save working hours, and effectively calculate employees’ time, attendance and overtime, which eliminates the need for extensive paperwork.”

Bioenable, a company specialising in fingerprinting scanners for businesses, claims that biometrics provides fool-proof authentication, preventing sensitive data from being stolen, hacked or exposed to unauthorised individuals.

A biometric fingerprint scanner does not save images of people’s fingerprints; only information about the peaks and troughs of the fingerprint, which is saved as a binary code and cannot be converted back into an image of a fingerprint.

Publicity information about fingerprint scanners also states that the touchpad is not a hot-bed for germs as some employees fear – the scanner is touched less frequently than toilet door handles or chairs in the break room, it says.

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