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Telephone monitoring in the workplace

April 2013

Phone use at work for personal purposes is tolerated by employers in much the same way as personal internet use i.e. where it is reasonable and not prejudicial to the employer. Employers have the technical capability to monitor calls made and received at work but monitoring is, of course, subject to regulation and must be carried out in accordance with the employees’ privacy and personal rights.

Call monitoring may take place using a private automatic branch exchange (PABX), through phone records or by recording conversations.

Monitoring through PABX

CountdownPABX manages and directs calls made and received from the workplace. It can save the phone numbers called by the employees as well as those received by them which means it can reveal the non-professional communications made to and from a given workstation.

Although employers are not authorised to keep a record of phone numbers, they may use other information gathered by PABX to obtain statistics on telephone use of a given employee (number of received and dialled calls, average call duration, etc.).

The French data protection regulator, the CNIL, has issued a simplified declaration relating to the processing of data in connection with the use of fixed and mobile phones in the workplace. Under the declaration, only the following categories of data can be collected and processed: identity of the user; employment status; use of telephone services; the nature of the call (local, regional, national, international); duration; date and time of start and end of the call; and billing elements.

Where the contemplated data processing does not comply with the simplified declaration, a "normal" declaration has to be filed with the CNIL. Note that filing of a normal declaration entails providing detailed information on the processing, e.g. its purpose, categories of data processed, recipients, retention and duration.

In addition, prior to the implementation of a monitoring scheme, employees must be informed and data relating to the use of telephone by employees cannot be kept for more than one year (unless there is a pending dispute).

Note that the employer is not allowed to monitor calls made and received by employee and union representatives.

Monitoring through phone records

When the employer is provided with itemised telephone invoices, only the first six digits of the phone numbers dialled by employees are revealed. Supervisors can access this information only exceptionally in case of alleged abnormal use of the telephone.

Recording of telephone conversations

SpeechEmployers are not allowed to permanently record telephone conversations save in the context of specific regulatory frameworks (e.g. on trading floors).

On an exceptional basis, the employer may record the content of certain calls after consultation with employee representatives. These recording may take place for quality and training purposes.

Where this happens, employees must be informed of the following:

  • purpose of the recording;
  • consequences of such recording (e.g. for professional assessment);
  • recipients of the recording; and
  • access rights.

Anyone being recorded must be informed of the fact, usually at the beginning of the call.

The CNIL recommends that recordings for training purpose are kept for no more than six months.

If you have any questions on this article or would like to propose a subject to be addressed by the Global Data Hub please contact us.

Grégory Sroussi

Grégory Sroussi      

Grégory explains the French approach to monitoring telephone use in the workplace.

"Employers are not allowed to permanently record telephone conversations save in the context of specific regulatory frameworks."