Mobile Phone Policy At Work

IN THIS SECTION

Mobile phones at work can easily become an unwanted distraction and have a negative impact on productivity. When employees are spending too much time on their device, it’s likely they’re wasting their working hours and creating other issues, such as underperforming and encouraging others to use their phones during work too.

But employers cannot ignore that mobile phones have become an extension of people’s lives. This means taking a proactive approach to considering if and what you will permit in relation to mobile phone usage during working hours and in the workplace environment. Your approach should then be detailed and shared with your workforce within a mobile phone policy that sets out the rules and expectations, and the consequences of breaching these.

In this guide for employers, we consider key areas to consider when developing and implementing a mobile phone policy at work.

 

Mobile phones at work policy

The best approach is to have a clear policy which outlines the rules regarding mobile phones and their use in the workplace.

When creating a mobile phone policy, it’s important that it works for your business.

Your stance might vary from an outright ban on mobile devices to a set of company guidelines about when and where a mobile can be used and for what purpose. Much will depend on the working environment and your organisation’s culture. For example, a tech company that encourages employee social media usage would take a more relaxed approach to mobile phone usage at work compared to a stricter approach within retail businesses, or those where machinery is operated, or any other sector that a mobile at work may cause health and safety hazards.

Guidelines might, for instance, request that all mobiles are switched to silent/vibrate mode when in the workplace and that any personal calls or texts must wait until lunch or break times.

Employees should be made aware that their mobile use can easily cause distraction and irritation amongst fellow colleagues and the policy should indicate the steps to keep intrusive effects to a bare minimum:

  • Mobile phones should be switched off during working hours, or set to silent/vibrate in the work environment.
  • Mobile phones must be kept in a bag, drawer, or company storage locker.
  • If it is necessary to make or answer a call then it should be done so in a private area.
  • If it is necessary to speak on the phone in the presence of others then do so in low tones.
  • Don’t interrupt colleagues by answering your mobile phone.
  • Devices are banned in meetings or you are not allowed to use your mobile whilst in meetings.

 
If you’re company relies on mobile phones in order for staff to do their job, you can adopt a more flexible approach. This can include:

  • Staff can have their mobile phone close by however, it must be on silent or vibrate.
  • Text and calls must be made away from working areas to avoid distracting other employees.
  • Devices must not be used or answered during meetings.

 

It’s good practice to ensure your mobile phone policy captures the use of tablets, smart watches and other devices. These are becoming more common in the workplace.

 

Risks of mobile phone use

Before you begin writing your policy, it’s a good idea to carry out a full risk assessment of your business. There may be roles within the company where a smartphone could be hazardous. For example, if you have drivers, people operating heavy machinery, electrical equipment that may be disrupted (in a medical setting for instance), or even somewhere where a distraction could cause danger.

In such cases, outline the specific roles that have a stricter usage policy and make clear the repercussion for breaching the policy.

In some cases telephone usage in the workplace can breach health and safety. Especially if the employee is using this while operating machinery or while driving a company vehicle. Therefore, it is essential you enforce these rules to ensure you business fully complies with HSE legislation. Make sure you’re consistent in your approach.

 

In what instances may mobile phone use be acceptable?

Think about situations where the use of a personal mobile phone may be acceptable and include these in your policy.

As an example, making or receiving an emergency call or text might be ok. If an employee says that they need to be reached in case of an emergency, you can advise them to give your work telephone number. If any calls should be made to this number, you will ensure a message is passed on. Staff may have a seriously emergency such as an ill relative and is awaiting a call. You can take a view whether to permit this employee on that occasion to have their mobile at work.

Smartphones may also prove useful if your employees wish to add a work meeting or event to their personal calendars, or create reminders for themselves, or even simply use their calculator to help them do their job.

If your policy is on the stricter side, would you make exceptions for this type of use or would you expect your people to find alternative ways of doing things?

Some businesses also allow employees to listen to music using headphones while they work. Would you allow your people to use their mobile phones to play music during their working day? This needs to go into your policy too.

 

Key considerations for employers 

When developing a mobile phone at work policy, consider the following:

 

Restricting when mobiles can be used?

You may wish to restrict the use mobile phones to lunch or rest breaks, or to deal with an emergency that cannot wait until the end of the day.

You should also think about any health and safety considerations. For example, if you have employees who are operating heavy machinery or lifting heavy boxes when moving stock, you should not allow them to use their phone as this could lead to serious accidents and injuries.

For all employees in customer-facing roles, you should also tell them to turn their phones off at work to avoid complaints from customers. Nobody wants to be waiting at a till to pay and be ignored by someone who is playing around on their mobile phone.

 

Volume levels

Having mobile phones on loud or vibrate mode will alert the employee to a message or call. This can disrupt them and affect their productivity in the shop, therefore you should emphasise to employees that mobile phones should be kept on silent mode or they should switch them off. This will also help reduce the noise from mobile phones affecting other colleagues’ concentration.

 

Mobile phone storage 

You should have rules on whether employees should allow them to keep their phone in their pockets, or whether they must have them leave them in locker room, staff room or a place where they can store their other belongings.

 

Customer-facing roles

When it comes to customer-facing roles, it can be really frustrating for customers when employees are visibly using their mobile phones. This displays bad customer service, particularly where the customer has had to wait to be served. This can have a negative impact on your business’ reputation. In this case, we advice you to enforce clear rules to ensure your staff don’t use their mobile phones while working.

 

Leave the room to make a call?

If an employee needs to make a call of a personal nature, you should encourage them do so in a quiet area to avoid disturbing colleagues. You should encourage them to do it in the back office of the shop or to go outside.

 

Rules & etiquette during meetings

Inform employees that they should not use mobiles in meetings to disrupt the flow of the meeting. If you are having a team meeting about new products or promotions in the shop, there is nothing worse than someone focusing on their phone and not paying any attention to the important topics of the day.

 

Safety when driving

For any employees that drive as part of their work duties, you must make sure they realise they should not make or receive calls, whether hand-held or hands-free , while driving. They should switch it off and make all calls go to voicemail. If they do need to use their mobile phone, they should pull over and stop in a safe place, turn off the engine and make or receive the call.

Reiterate that they must comply with this legal duty; otherwise they may end up facing disciplinary proceedings. If they repeatedly breach this policy, this may result in dismissal.

 

Do not allow misuse

If you do provide an employee with by a mobile phone in order to perform their duties, make it clear to the employee that it is property of the company. It can be withdrawn and it must be returned when their employment ends. If you consider that an employee is misusing their phone by making excessive personal calls, you can ask them to meet the costs of any non-business related calls.

 

Inform employees of the rules

Make sure that you communicate the rules to the employees. It is considered good practice to get your employee to sign a form clearly stating that they have read and understood the policy. Make sure the policy is easily accessible to them.

 

Enforce the policy

Having rules is great, but you also need to make sure that you enforce them. Constantly letting employee send a quick text here and there will send out the wrong message and they will think that, despite the policy, they can use their mobile as they wish.

 

Be fair and consistent

Make sure you apply the policy in a fair and consistent way in order to avoid employee concerns, a negative impact on team morale and discrimination. If you take different action for the same offence, it is likely that an Employment Tribunal would find this unfair and potentially discriminatory.

 

Social media use

You may decide to put a ban on social media use during work time, and that’s ok. But consider employees that may use social media as part of their role. Employees may need to use their phones to capture images for your social media feeds or even post updates. This exception should be covered in your policy too, to avoid any misunderstanding or misinterpretation.

If you don’t decide to place a ban on social media during working hours, you should include what you deem to be acceptable use, and what action may be taken if this is abused.

 

Company-issued phones

Include a section on company-issued mobile phones if you have them. It should explain that the device is company property, as well as what is considered to be acceptable use of the phone. As an example, should your employees avoid making personal calls on the company device, or will they be required to cover the cost of non-work related calls?

Or perhaps you want to make sure that certain apps aren’t downloaded onto the device for security purposes, or to include that no other person is allowed access to the device.

Include it all in your policy, so that everything is clear and there is no confusion should an issue arise.

 

What counts as an offence?

Although you may have already mentioned offences in your policy, include a section that clearly and simply defines exactly what counts as a breach of policy and how that will be dealt with.

It’s a good idea to refer staff to your disciplinary procedure here too, so that no-one is left in any doubt over the seriousness of breaking the rules.

 

Need assistance?

DavidsonMorris work with employers to support positive workforce management and relations through effective workplace policies. For specialist advice, contact us.

 

Mobile phone at work policy FAQs

Can I stop employees using their mobile phones at work?

Yes, you can limit or even prohibit use of mobile phones during work hours. Employees can be expected to give their undivided attention to the work you pay them to perform.

Do I have to use my personal phone for work UK?

This is not a universal rule and there is no legal precedent that requires them to do so.

Can an employer force you to use your personal phone for work UK?

If your employer requires it they are required to provide it. Unless your contract of employment includes it as a condition which you have accepted as an aspect of your employment, you cannot be compelled to use personal phone for your work's benefit.

 
Last updated: 23 November 2022

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

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