Phones in the Workplace: To Ban or Not to Ban? They are an integral part of our daily lives, but they are a productivity pitfall in the workplace. This is why business owners can regain control of the use of personal mobile phones in the workplace by implementing an employee mobile phone policy.
There can be little doubt as to the role tech plays in our daily lives today and with much speculation on the increasing rise of AI. It’s vital that employers don’t take their eyes off the ball regarding how technology is used in the workplace and that also includes cell phone use in the workplace.
When your staff are at work, whether they are based at your work premises or are working remotely, it is entirely reasonable for the employer to expect that time to be dedicated to work activities and this is why having a company phone policy for employees is a great idea.
After all, if your staff spent their working hours sitting in the office kitchen chatting, playing board games, planning their wedding, or wandering off on a 3-hour lunch to do some shopping, this would be a clear dereliction of their duties. Similarly, if staff use their mobile phones to access social media, make calls, send messages, play games, and shop, this still amounts to a waste of time, which can very quickly add up and cell phones in the workplace may even present a workplace hazard.
In this guide, we look at the use of mobile phones in the workplace and what employers can do to proactively get ahead of the problem.
Can Employers Stop The Use Of Mobile Devices In The Workplace By Employees?
It is entirely reasonable for employers to implement a company cell phone policy for employees
that bans the use of personal mobiles during working hours and in some sectors such as childcare, having such devices on your person could amount to a safeguarding breach.
It is also unacceptable for employees to use mobile phones, whether personal or company mobiles, mobile devices in the workplace can be dangerous whilst driving (unless hands-free) or when operating machinery, for reasons of health and safety.
A Complete Ban Seems Harsh; What Other Workplace Phone Policy Options Do I Have?
If a ‘ban’ sounds a bit heavy-handed, issue a mobile phone policy in the workplace that restricts mobile phone usage to break/lunch times or instruct that mobile phones should be kept off desks/workspaces, on silent/vibrate, or in lockers/staff rooms for non-desk based workers.
I have an employee who says that they need to have their mobile phone with them at all times in case of emergencies and if I refuse, this is a breach of their human rights. Where do I stand?
You are not breaching anyone’s human rights by restricting the use of mobile phones in the workplace during working hours. However, it is reasonable for your staff to have a means of being contacted in an emergency, especially if they have caring responsibilities, but this doesn’t give an automatic right to always have their mobile with them.
The employer could implement a phone policy in the workplace that allows employees to give out a landline number, this could be a staff room number, an office number etc. so that whoever may need to contact them can do so. It must be made clear though, that this number should only be used in the case of an emergency.
There may arise exceptional circumstances where an employee has a particularly sensitive personal situation going on, perhaps a close family member is in hospital, or they are waiting for the results of medical tests. In these circumstances, having a mobile phone usage policy in the workplace that considers any requests to have their phone with them should be or, in an environment where mobile phones are not permitted, or maybe consider allowing additional breaks to go into the staff room/outside to check their phone.
As long as permission is sought and reasonableness is adhered to regarding your mobile phone policy for the workplace, there should be a workable solution for everyone.
Should Businesses Have a Mobile Phone Policy in the Workplace?
It’s essential for organisations to have clear rules on the use of mobile phones and these policies are usually set out in the employee handbook. Rules should be made clear with the use of personal mobile phones in the workplace policy and enforced consistently across the company.
It is important to outline any other restricted activities associated with personal mobile devices with your workplace cell phone policy at work. For example, they should not be plugged into company devices, used to install company software or used for the storage of sensitive client/company information- as this could be a general data protection regulation (GDPR) breach.
If you issue company mobile devices, your mobile phone policy should also set out the rules regarding how these devices are to be used i.e., not for personal use (e.g., personal calls, messages, shopping, gambling) and that the employee will be liable for any non-work-related network costs or any damage/loss to the device.
The employee mobile phone policy can also set out when devices may be required to be returned, for example in the event of long-term absences, suspension from work or when an employee leaves their employment. The company cell phone policy for employees should also state that no software/applications should be installed without express permission from the company.
What Action Can Be Taken If Employees Are Found Using Mobile Devices in the Workplace During Work Time?
As with any alleged rule-breaking relating to mobile phones in the workplace, the matter will need to be investigated and any action taken in accordance with your disciplinary procedure.
It will depend on the circumstances as to how serious the rule breach will be. For example, for a first-time offence, where the investigation shows that someone has just forgotten to put their phone away or put it on silent, an informal warning may be issued, or a note placed on their file following an informal discussion.
However, if the employee is a repeat offender, this could give rise to a formal warning. REMEMBER- any formal warning, even a formal verbal warning, should always be issued in accordance with a fair disciplinary procedure in accordance with your company cell phone policy for employees with advice taken from Avensure alongside.
If, however, the breach is severe- for example, it constitutes a childcare safeguarding breach involving the use of a mobile phone in a nursery setting or the use of the device has caused a serious health and safety breach- this could constitute an allegation of gross misconduct.
Allegations of gross misconduct could result in the summary termination of employment, i.e., a dismissal without notice. Under these circumstances, it is important to act quickly and seek our advice at the earliest opportunity so that we may guide you through a fair procedure.
Summary dismissal for gross misconduct is not an entitlement to dismiss with immediate effect and without following a fair disciplinary procedure. To do so could result in a claim for unfair dismissal- even if the employee is guilty of the allegations against them!
And finally…the employer sets the standards for behaviours in the workplace. Don’t assume that employees know the rules relating to your mobile phone usage policy in the workplace, be clear and ensure that those rules are properly communicated and that management responsible for implementing the employee mobile phone policy rules knows how to do so and that they also understand the importance of doing so consistently.
Need support with your workplace phone policy?
Take the time today to redistribute your mobile phone policy in the workplace and/or your disciplinary rules and procedures so that everyone knows the standards of behaviours that are expected of them.
Putting an employee mobile phone policy in place can be tricky. If you’re looking for help establishing regulations for your employees to follow, we can help. For support Click Here: Avensure Contact!