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Government backs Big Brother approach to ‘sickies’

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Lie detectors could soon be used to deter workers from pulling sickies, after trials of the technology were backed by the government last week.

The controversial Voice Risk Analysis (VRA) system, which can tell when a person is lying on the phone about being too ill to work, has already been trialed successfully in a number of pilot projects within the benefits system.

Anti-fraud minister James Plaskitt last week announced that using VRA to detect false benefit claims in local authorities had saved in excess of £330,000.

The technology works by identifying changes in a caller's voice. It then makes thousands of calculations before prompting the phone operator to take specific action to encourage the caller to withdraw their claim.

Susan Anderson, director of HR policy at employers' group the CBI, said the technology could be "very useful" but advised that it would be best used as part of a range of incentives and penalties.

"Research from the CBI and AXA shows that employers believe 12% of absence is not genuine, and that these sickies amount to 21 million lost days every year, at a cost of £1.6bn," she said.


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