Top tech stats: GDPR, painful commutes and pulling sickies

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Welcome to your roundup of some of the past week’s most interesting surveys, statistics and reports relevant to those involved in the UK tech industry.

This week we bring you the latest stats on how UK businesses are preparing for the EU’s imposition of the GDPR privacy law; how much is lost from the British economy by workers “pulling a sickie”; and how many consumers now value their smartphone more than their trousers.

Privacy concerns

The number of fines levied for data protection breaches in the UK doubled from 2015 to 2016, an analysis from British professional services firm PwC shows.

Some 35 fines were imposed by the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for failure to comply with the data protection laws totalling over £3.2m.

This placed the UK as one of Europe’s most fine-heavy countries, alongside Italy which saw €3.3m of fines.

Stewart Room, PwC’s global security leader, said that of the 150 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) readiness assessments the firm has conducted, many clients “struggle to know where to start with their preparations”.

“It’s impossible to ignore the impact of legal and regulatory change in this area in recent years,” he added, “the GDPR has already been a force for good by bringing the issue to much wider attention.”

Marketing firms not ready for GDPR

In other GDPR related-news, a survey by email service provider Mailjet found, with less than a year to go until GDPR regulations kick in, less than 17% of British marketing businesses have taken recommended steps toward ensuring GDPR compliance.

The GDPR is a European Union regulation, which will apply to all UK businesses from 25th May 2018. 72% of marketers surveyed  were unable to list the necessary conditions to meet GDPR requirements for “opt-in” consent.

British marketers also massively underestimate the sum they could be forced to pay in fines – marketers believe they are facing a total fine of €5.2m, whereas the maximum penalty for noncompliance is €20m.

Rachel Aldighieri, managing director at the Direct Marketing Association, said: “With just a year left to prepare, and despite high levels of awareness, the number of businesses ready for the new laws is still low.

“Even more concerning is that we’ve also found in our own research that only half of businesses expect to be ready in time for the May 2018 deadline.”

Pulling a sickie

Workers in SMEs cost the British economy £900m every year by “pulling a sickie”, according to research from breatheHR, a Sussex-based firm selling cloud-based software to human resources departments.

The research also showed one in seven employees admitted to having feigned an illness to get off work, with those who do “pulling a sickie” an average of three times per year. More than half of business owners confessed to having contacted an employee when they were on sick leave, a figure that jumped to 72% for 18 to 34-year-old business owners.

42% of employees “pulling sickies” do so due to needing rest, the figures showed, whilst almost three-quarters (71%) of business owners expect employees to come in to work if they have a common cold.

Jonathan Richards, CEO of breatheHR, said that Britain is facing a “costly absence epidemic”.

“At a time when the government is attempting to decipher the ‘productivity puzzle’,” he said, “over two million people are calling in sick when they are in fact not.

“Imagine if that number was halved, what uptick in economic performance would that deliver to the UK economy and SMEs.”

16-day commute for some IT workers

In other work efficiency related news, a study by job board CV-Library found this week that more than half of IT professionals (54.5%) are spending up to 16 days a year commuting to and from work, with over a quarter (27.3%) of professionals commuting for up to four hours every day.

The survey of 1,200 workers also found that 70.4% are willing to relocate to make their commute shorter, whilst 45.5% of workers say they enjoy their commute.

45.5% of workers, the survey said, would turn a job if it required a longer commute.

Lee Biggins, founder and managing director of CV-Library, said it is “alarming” to know that many IT professionals could losing “days, even weeks, even years” to their commute.

“But at least some do appear to be enjoying it,” he added.

Insurance executives are embracing machine learning

More than half of insurance executives are now using machine learning for predictive modelling, says a study published this week by software platform Earnix.

The survey of 200 insurance executives showed 54% saying they use machine learning to analyse and model potential scenarios. Of those deploying the technology, 70% use it for risk modelling, 45% for demand modelling, and 36% for fraud detection.

The survey also showed that lack of knowledge is the main barrier to the technology’s further adoption, with 82% admitting that their business is “relatively inexperienced” in machine learning.

Udi Ziv, CEO of Earnix, described the use of machine learning within insurance as a “powerful trend that will quickly become a competitive edge for those who embrace it”.

UK mortgage giants ‘failing’ customers online

Three of the UK’s biggest mortgage providers are ‘failing’ customers online, research from London-based digital agency Dock9 shows this week.

The study of 19 mortgage lenders, including First Direct, Halifax, and HSBC, found that of all lenders engaging with customers online, more than half (53%) “ignore” mobile and tablet users by declining to design websites fully suited to those devices.

Mark Lusted, managing director of Dock9, says that although most mortgage deals are brokered through intermediaries, “the customer experience for the end-user is still a key differentiator that can help set lenders apart from one another – especially for younger customers”.

Smartphones, the new trousers

More than half of Britons would rather lose their trousers than their smartphone, research from American ADC manufacturer A10 Networks shows this week.

The survey of more than 2,000 businesses and IT professionals show that work and personal apps have become “integral to daily life” among workers, with many comparing them to basic requirements like “eating, breathing, and socialising”

Over three-quarters of Brits say they simply “cannot live without apps”, the firm says, with two in five (42%) saying that apps are “equally or almost as important” as eating, breathing, and drinking.