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Telephone Monitoring at Work

By: Anna Hinds BA (hons) - Updated: 1 Mar 2021 | comments*Discuss
Telephone Monitoring Workplace

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 Monitoring

Telephone 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:

  1. To prevent crime or misuse
  2. To record a business transaction
  3. To make sure that staff act in compliance with business procedure
  4. To monitor key standards or targets
  5. 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:

  1. Ask your employer to clarify their privacy policy: are your phone calls monitored or recorded? Is the monitoring continual or random? Call centres often set up random call-selection.

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

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[Add a Comment]
Hi, my company is able to record calls from my work van, whatever phone I use. I drive four hours a day and would like to phone my wife and discuss personal matters but don’t feel comfortable doing this as work are recording the calls. Are they allowed to do this?
CJ - 1-Mar-21 @ 7:00 AM
I worked has a support worker i phone the boss to tell her what was happening and that i was putting a save guarding in... I was in my probation so they got rid of me. Everytime i asked if theyed listen to it they change the subject i was gutted as i loved the job
Josie Davis - 17-Jul-20 @ 6:36 PM
Hi, I work for a call centre who monitor and listen to calls. Due to the Covid19 situation I am now working from home but only taking emails because I have a young child at home. I was called by my boss the other day who told me I had to take my phone off mute because the same rules apply as in our office! I explained I have a 7 year old child at home who needs my attention during my working hours and I'm not comfortable about our conversations being listened in on in our home, also I'm only taking emails so there is no one speaking for them to listen to and monitor anyway so why do you need to listen in?Are works within there right to listen in when you are only taking emails and not talking to customers and is there something in place to protect our privacy at home with a young child whilst working?
Net - 30-Apr-20 @ 7:30 AM
Got a phone bill on my work phone. Paid in full and apologised. But before hand my manger called the number I was contacting and it was my wife. Is he allowed to call the numbers without consent from me. Is this legal ?
Tom - 5-Jul-18 @ 10:46 AM
I had a accident at work I broke my toe I was off work for 3weeks in that time my wife received a still photo of my accident taken from the cctv with a comment at the bottom the photo an only come from the cctv
Darbo - 27-Jun-18 @ 9:18 PM
Can a boss listen to anything I say for example.The work phone is just lying there but I heard that he listens still through the phones microphone when phone is off even.
Enigma - 6-Sep-17 @ 4:31 PM
Under lawful business monitoring can the employer monitor texts sent and received on a works phone that I pay for personal calls. At what stage do they need a RIPA.
Biziden - 3-Apr-17 @ 10:45 PM
Can an employer record a personal call on a personal phone used within his office...allegedly, the office has a microphone...staff were not aware
tina - 8-Nov-15 @ 8:35 PM
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