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BT: Personal Mobile Devices Policy

8 December 2014

BT Consumer and BT Business National Teams have continued consultations on BT’s proposals regarding the presence of personal mobile devices in contact centres.

Discussions have now concluded without agreement with the CWU. BT will be banning personal mobile devices from all work areas and providing lockers where all personal mobile devices have to be stored.

The CWU has continued to argue that the proposed approach is excessive, disproportionate and unnecessary and that there are major problems in relation to emergency contact and insurance cover.

While this policy will only apply to BT Consumer and BT Business at this time, BT has made it clear that it intends eventually to apply this policy to the whole Group.


BT claims that in the absence of the new policy, BT is at risk of having heavy fines imposed by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for not adequately protecting customer details. The Company says that such fines would damage the company financially and would adversely affect the BT brand.

The substance of the argument is smart mobile devices in the workplace expose BT to the risk of customer details being inappropriately disclosed via; screen shots on camera mobiles; the ability to text data; the recording of speech; data sent to smart phones. While we recognise the need to ensure that customer data is protected, the CWU has objected to the new approach for the following reasons.

  • The existing policy of allowing personal mobile devices in contact centres as long as they are; in a pocket or a bag; not used or visible; and be either on silent or off; is sufficient to satisfy ICO requirements.
  • There is very limited evidence of contact centre staff using mobile phones or any kind of access to customer details for criminal activity or of customer details being inadvertently or inappropriately leaked from contact centres.
  • There is no evidence that what BT is proposing is a requirement of the ICO, especially as other major employers, including Banks, do not insist on this approach.
  • BT is a communications company that is about to launch in the mobile market, and taking this approach will be treated with disbelief and frustration by members who rely on their mobile devices.

However, BT has determined at senior levels to continue with the use of lockers, and there are a number of practical issues which we have tried to address as follows with some limited success.

Emergency Contact

We are concerned that the arrangements for contacting staff in an emergency – which involve calling designated site specific numbers, will not operate successfully. In times when emergency calls are more likely to be received the existing policy allows people to look at their phones quickly and easily during breaks to see if calls have been received.

BT has undertaken to ensure that the numbers are tested regularly to ensure that they are being staffed properly. However, we remain concerned that messages will not be acted on in a timely fashion. One missed or delayed call could have devastating consequences for individuals.

In response to our concerns that some emergency callers may have speech impediments or be suffering from conditions such as the early stages of dementia, BT has agreed that “In exceptional circumstances where using the direct number is not practical then discuss this with your Line Manager and we will look to put in place a suitable alternative. (Please note a suitable alternative will not include any use of the personal mobile device which should be kept in the locker provided)”.

Members who are expecting an emergency contact in relation to issues such as; caring responsibilities; impending childbirth; hospital operations; sick children or relatives; should insure that their Line Manager is made aware of the situation so that any emergency contacts are dealt with swiftly.

Emergency Contact for Agile Workers

We have raised concerns for agile workers such as Trainers who are required to work around the UK and also work in India. Their sites change frequently, and are based in rooms for most of the day which do not have any phone. They do not have a business phone and their manager is also often on a separate site.

BT’s response is that such staff “should make their line manager aware and equally the line manager should be aware of where team members are located. For advisors that do not have a phone located within the same room, this should be identified before beginning the any training as part of normal health and safety protocols”.

We understand that this means that the agile worker’s Line Manager will be the emergency contact. We do not believe this is acceptable as the manager maybe in a meeting, on leave, off sick, and it does not address the issue that training rooms do not have phones. Changing emergency numbers every time if a manager is on leave or off sick is also not practical in terms of advising all those who may need to know including schools, parents, partners etc.

BT has agreed to look into this issue further and in the meantime we advise all agile staff to raise this matter with their Line Manager.

Insurance Cover

We have asked BT to confirm that Company insurance will cover any theft/damage while in the BT locker. BT has refused to do this and says “bringing a mobile phone to work is a personal choice and is not a requirement of the business”.

Furthermore, we believe that many individual insurance policies may be invalid if a phone is not kept with the individual. Members need to make sure that they understand their own insurance policy before bringing a phone/tablet into work.

Any theft should be reported to the Line Manager and the police.

Requiring staff to use lockers and then not insuring them, or offering compensation should the devices be stolen or damaged, is simply unreasonable.

Break Times and Log On/Log Off

The proposed new policy is likely to cut down individual break times as BT is insisting that access to the lockers will be carried out in an individual’s own time, i.e. breaks cannot be extended to access the mobile devices in the lockers, even if those lockers are not near work stations.

Members are reminded that they should log on and off in line with the Log/On Log Off Agreement, and the log/on process takes place at the beginning of your shift and not before it.

Disciplinary Action

The CWU has argued that the introduction of this policy should be managed in a sensitive and measured way. We have also said that breaches of policy should be treated as a disciplinary issue allowing the line manager to consider the circumstances of any incident.

However, BT has insisted on treating this as a compliance issue and that after a second failure “standard disciplinary process initiated as per any other compliance failure”. As a result the proposed new policy could lead to multiple unnecessary disciplinaries.

Home Workers

BT is not insisting that home workers need to have a locker in their home. However, the implication of this policy for home workers is under review.

First Aiders

On some sites personal mobiles are used to contact First Aiders. BT has confirmed that any team members who are dedicated first aiders will have “a direct contact number to ensure they can be contacted in an emergency. This will however not be their personal mobile number”. It is not clear how this will work in practice as staff do not always sit at the same desk, and Branches will bring this up at local level.

Security and Location of Lockers

Given the lack of insurance we have asked BT to look carefully at the security of the lockers and their location. BT will be using existing lockers where they are already on site but will review security issues and consider the use of CCTV to cover the locker areas if appropriate.BT has agreed to consider suggestions from CWU Branches over the best location for the lockers.

BT Business Sales Grades

We have pointed out to BT that some members in Business use their personal phone numbers to allow them to complete a call/sale. Removing this facility will cost BT sales and reduce members’ bonus payments.

BT response is that: “Where there is a requirement for advisors to be in receipt of a business mobile, this will be reviewed and an application submitted in line with business requirements. Where advisors are using their own personal mobile phones we are absolutely clear this is neither required nor should it be happening.”

Members in this situation should discuss the provision of BT mobiles with their Line Manager.

Next Steps

Briefings by BT will be rolling out from this week onwards.