HR Expert: Mobile Phones
My client wants to know if they can confiscate mobile phones from employees as they are spending too much time on them during the day?

The presence of mobile phones at work can prove problematic for many employers and it is understandable why your client may want to take tougher action against mobile phone use during the working day.

Your client has the authority to make their own rules on mobile phone use at work and these should be included within a specific policy. Hopefully any pre-existing policy clearly outlines if employees are able to use their mobile phones and whether certain features, such as listening to music, are allowed. With this in mind, your client should consider reviewing their workplace policy if they want to confiscate mobile phones and ensure this provision is included.

Whilst it may appear drastic to some, confiscating mobile phones is already a common practice in many organisations as a way of maintaining productivity and safeguarding sensitive information. Given that staff can use their phones to call, text, tweet and even order food these could easily prove distracting during the working day. Therefore, removing the temptation from staff entirely should help individuals stay on task and ensure work is being completed on time.

Having said this, your client should consider the negative impact that confiscating mobile phones may have, specifically when it comes to employee morale. As such, it is important to only take these measures where necessary, as doing so without justification could be seen as a sign of distrust and lead to an increase in grievance claims from disgruntled staff.

Confiscating mobile phones may also place certain employees at an unfair disadvantage, especially those who are an emergency contact for a dependant such as a child or elderly relative. It will be important to accommodate these specific needs and your client may choose to allow individuals brief periods away from their duties to check their phone for important calls, or introduce a designated emergency contact number at work that friends and family may use to get in touch.

Therefore, prior to taking any further action your client should ask themselves if this option is truly appropriate under the circumstances, or if a more suitable alternative is available. Before jumping straight into confiscating personal property it would be wise to remind staff of their obligations under the company’s mobile phone policy. However, if this does not deter mobile phone use then stricter measures may be their only option.

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