The question of texting in the workplace can be a difficult challenge employers. For many workers, work-related calls and texts during office hours are simply part of the job.
And there are certainly times when it is necessary for an employee to make a personal call or text while they’re at work – e.g. if they experience a family emergency.
But when personal texting becomes excessive, this can have a major impact on productivity. So when can texting in the workplace cross the line? And how should employers handle these situations?
Texting in the workplace
Texting in the workplace has become an increasingly common occurrence in the workplace, in both personal and professional contexts.
While work-related texts generally won’t be an issue for employers, excessive personal texting certainly can be.
As the team at SHRM notes, “most employers give workers some leeway to address personal concerns in texts, e-mails or phone calls during work hours, so long as it doesn’t take up too much time.”
When personal texting does become excessive, it may be necessary to directly address the situation with an employee, and in some cases, to provide a formal warning about the behaviour.
As a recent Fair Work Commission ruling demonstrates, dismissing a worker who has ignored direction and warnings in this regard can be considered fair and valid.
Can employees be dismissed for too much personal texting?
The short answer is – yes, an employee can be dismissed for excessive texting at work.
A recent unfair dismissal case brought to the Fair Work Commission involved a worker being dismissed after repeated warnings for excessive texting at work.
The worker in question was dismissed for excessive personal texting during work hours, which included sending over 1200 personal text messages while at work over a period of less than one month.
After receiving a verbal warning from her employer, the employee continued to text excessively during working hours – in addition to making personal calls, sending personal emails and shopping online.
The employee was subsequently dismissed for this behaviour.
Upon reviewing the case, the Fair Work Commission ruled that the dismissal was fair, despite some procedural deficiencies on the part of the employer, with the Commissioner describing the worker’s behaviour as “extraordinary and unacceptable.”
How should employers manage this?
Quantifying how many personal texts during work hours could be considered ‘excessive’ can be a challenge for employers.
A simple way to address these types of issues before they become a problem is to clearly stipulate in employment contracts that personal usage of phones is not permitted in the workplace, except in extenuating circumstances, such as a family emergency.
Making sure that such policies are clearly communicated and understood by all employees can help to mitigate the risks of such behaviour in the workplace.
Akyra’s key takeaways
- Personal texting in the workplace has become increasingly common, posing a challenge for employers in relation to productivity and performance management
- A recent ruling from the FWC demonstrates that excessive personal texting while at work can be considered a legitimate reason for dismissal
- Having clear policies in place regarding texting in the workplace can help to mitigate these types of challenges
NEED MORE INFORMATION?
Akyra can help your business to assist and support all your questions and concerns related to performance management – including texting in the workplace. Please contact Akyra on 07 3204 8830 or book a free 30-minute consultation for an obligation-free conversation.
Disclaimer – Reliance on Content
The material distributed is general information only. The information supplied is not intended to be legal or other professional advice, nor should it be relied upon as such. You should seek legal or professional advice in relation to your specific situation.
https://www.hrmonline.com.au/section/strategic-hr/personal-texts-at-work/, https://www.corneyandlind.com.au/employment-law/terminated-for-personal-texting-during-work-hours/, https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/global-hr/pages/australia-excessive-texting.aspx, https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=abc80845-530a-4c79-9240-66a5fb6ad739&l=9TBKP1Z