Technology has dramatically changed the way we work in recent years; no more so than in the use of mobile devices. Where would we be without our mobile phones and tablets! They have become such an integral part of everyday life, with employees habitually working on the daily commute. Some see this as just an extension of the working day; others see it as a real benefit to enable them to make more efficient use of travel time.
Whatever your opinion….. there are risks for those of us who work on the move!
Inherent in all this there is a danger that we almost forget where we are and what we are saying. Or is that just me?? The railway carriage is just an extension of the office after all. As an employment specialist I guess I am more tuned in to this type of conversation perhaps, but it is not unusual for me to hear fairly sensitive information being discussed in an open train compartment. I have been sitting adjacent to individuals as quite open comments were being made about someone’s poor performance or discussion took place about a recruitment decision – often over a mobile phone. Most often it is just an innocent whinge about the boss!
On some occasions those involved are wearing company clothing or have a prominent ID badge, so it is not hard to identify the Employer. Therein lies a problem.
A real case. A forensic scientist working with mental health patients at BroadmoorHospital has been suspended from work on grounds of possible gross misconduct. The alleged offences stem from breaching patient confidentiality. A member of the public complained to the NHS Trust that the Consultant had discussed her work in such a way that her place of work, as well as individual patients could be identified. All of this occurred whilst travelling on a train.
Further investigation by the Trust has identified that the Consultant would also dictate notes to secretarial staff whilst on the train; again these dictated reports contained sensitive patient information. This could result in dismissal, although a final decision has not yet been made.
There is a real danger that we become complacent about making and taking calls, and using other mobile devices such as digital recorders, when we are in public places. It is important to remind staff about these issues and, for some Employers, to take their duties under the Data Protection Act more seriously.
In recent years the Information Commissioner has grown bigger teeth. Employers can now be hit by substantial fines, up to £500,000 in fact. A Local Authority has recently been fined £80,000 over the loss of a memory stick which contained sensitive information about special needs school children. The information on the device was not protected or encrypted.
They say “Walls have ears”; but clearly fellow passengers on public transport have them too!!
Need some more advice?
To find out how Employment Law Training Limited can help, get in touch: