Weekly dilemma: Personal mobile phones and work-related calls

One of my employees was out of the office recently on business to meet with a client. She complained that she had received a work-related call on her personal mobile phone. Can an employee refuse to use and take calls – from either colleagues or clients – on their personal mobile phone while at work? Where should we draw the line?

First of all, yes they can. As it is their mobile phone they may choose not to use it for work-related calls. However, if they refuse, talk to them about why they are refusing. It may be that if you provide favourable terms they might then agree to use their own phone.

There are a number of things to consider. Perhaps only ask employees to use their mobile phones for work-related calls if this is absolutely necessary – for example, if they are not in the office. Also, ensure they are reimbursed for any calls if they provide appropriate invoices.

If the employee is reluctant to give their mobile number to a client, or even work colleagues, consider diverting calls from their work’s landline to their mobile phone. They could use their mobile’s ‘private number’ function when calling clients or colleagues so that their own number does not appear on the recipient’s phone.

Finally, always make it clear that employees should not use their mobiles while driving. Not only it is illegal to use a hand-held phone while driving, in both moving and stationary positions, it is also illegal to use a hands-free kit if it means the driver is not in full control of their vehicle.

In addition, from 27 February 2007, the penalty will increase, with fines doubling to £60 and three points on the offending driver’s licence. If the case goes to court, this fine can be as high as £1,000.

Remember it is illegal for an employer to encourage employees to use a mobile phone while driving. Employers could be liable to prosecution and a fine if they require or allow their employees to use a mobile phone when driving for work. In fact, doing so should be a disciplinary offence. It would be useful to incorporate these conditions into a workplace policy.

By Stuart Jones, partner, Weightmans


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