Telephone Monitoring at Work
Telephone monitoring in the UK is commonplace. 31% of UK companies keep tabs on numbers dialled by their staff – and 20% don’t tell their staff that they’re being monitored. Are you in the unlucky 20%? Telephone monitoring is perfectly legal and you’ve few rights if you’re caught chatting to friends at 10am. Why, how, and when does it happen?
The History of Telephone MonitoringTelephone monitoring has taken place for years; call centres and customer service lines are usually recorded for quality purposes. But there are cases where employers have unfairly monitored staff. An employee at Carmarthenshire College successfully sued her boss for monitoring telephone calls and email (April 2007). Some use of phone calls was ruled by the court to be reasonable under the European Convention of Human Rights. The clause cited in her case, as in many cases brought against employers, states that individuals are entitled to a private life (and correspondence). This can, however, be overturned if the employer has a good reason to monitor calls or emails.
Is my Telephone Monitered at Work?Your telephone conversations could be routinely recorded, or the line could be tapped to produce a number log. And your employer has a right to do this – for the following purposes:
- To prevent crime or misuse
- To record a business transaction
- To make sure that staff act in compliance with business procedure
- To monitor key standards or targets
- To ensure quality control.
If your calls are being monitored or recorded, that doesn’t mean an employer has a right to listen to any personal calls. It’s best practice to switch off or delete any recordings which are obviously private. And don’t forget that your employer has an obligation to inform you if telephone monitoring is taking place. If you’re unsure, ask about their policy.
How am I Monitered?Telephone calls can be monitored in one of two ways:
By a telephone recorder: UK companies offer telephone recording systems that can cover as many as 200 telephone lines.
By a system that records numbers dialled (a pen register): These usually create a list of numbers you’ve dialled, and time spent on each call. Employers have been known to contact personal numbers to find out what their staff have been up to.
Concerned ABout Telephone Monitoring?If you’re worried about being monitored, consider the following actions:
- If you wear a telephone headset, your employer could be listening to more than your business calls. Make sure you mute or switch off the headset before gossiping with colleagues!
- Make your private calls from a mobile phone where possible. Its signal is encrypted, which prevents eavesdropping. Your employer is obliged to allow you to make occasional private calls, but it’s better to use your own telephone when you can.
- Don’t forget Voice Mail. Some systems retain voice messages even after the user has deleted them. Only give your work number to business contacts, and keep private messages on your mobile, protected by a PIN to render them inaccessible.