Amazon’s ‘time off task’ policy under scrutiny

Workers had alleged that even visits to the loo were often considered as ‘time off task’


Amazon has decided to extend the period over which the average of ‘time off task’ is calculated. The e-retailer has been using complicated algorithms to keep track of the productivity of its workers across its facilities. However, this has come to be considered as a huge pressure tactic by its workers who have to explain why they have been absent from their workstations. Called ‘time off task’, when these absences from their seat reach a certain limit, workers are given warnings and even terminated. With workers complaining about their visits to the washroom also being considered as ‘time off task’, Amazon’s technique of measuring productivity has been criticised and come under scrutiny.

The Company will now take a relook at productivity targets, as it has been alleged that the rate of injuries at its warehouses is higher compared to that of other operators in the logistics space.

Warehouse workers have complained that the yardstick used to measure productivity and the extreme pace of work puts unnecessary burden on them, making their work unsafe and causing stress injuries. There has emerged a direct connection between the Company’s productivity monitoring system and the occurrence of musculoskeletal disorders amongst workers at an Amazon warehouse in Washington.

Therefore, the Company’s blog post has revealed its intention to average ‘time off task’ over a longer period. The blog also clarifies that the ‘time off task’ policy was actually aimed at identifying faults in the tools and to detect underperformance and not to put pressure on the workers.

Amazon will also stop considering a positive test for marijuana use as a disqualification while taking on new hires. It will support the proposed federal law for legalising marijuana.

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