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Headlines Labour & Employment: Listening to sales calls is allowed, but do not forget the work rules

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In its advice statement of June 5 2013, the Privacy Commission shed light on the practice of employers listening in to employees' sales calls with a view to quality control. The commission ruled that this is possible in principle, provided that the system is mentioned in the work rules beforehand. The commission's advice provides significant guidance for employers which wish to introduce such a system.

An employer active in renting storage facilities wanted to monitor the quality of sales calls made by its employees and therefore installed a recording system. In each store, half of the incoming phone calls with prospective customers were recorded. The employer would listen to these calls and evaluate the store personnel on the extent to which they adhered to the sales script. Based on these results, the employer would determine whether additional training or coaching of the personnel was needed. In some other countries, the employer tied the results to a contest in which the employees could win a bonus. However, this bonus scheme was never applied in Belgium.

The trade unions disapproved of this system and a short strike ensued. The case also did not pass unnoticed in the media. Recently, the employer in question had the dubious honour of receiving the highest number of public votes in the so-called 'Big Brother' awards. A complaint was lodged with the commission for the protection of privacy. After an attempt at reconciliation, the commission issued its opinion on the matter.

The commission ruled that, taking into consideration the guarantees provided by the employer, the system was legitimate, as no breach of the Processing Personal Data Act could be established. However, the employer was reprimanded for the fact that the system was not provided for in the work rules before it became operational. According to the commission, the monitoring of sales calls is a form of supervision. Therefore, it must be mentioned in the work rules in accordance with Article 6(1)(5) of the Work Rules Act.

The advice statement mentions other relevant issues for employers that wish to listen to employees' sales conversations:

  • The employer must inform and consult with the employees' representation, but the introduction of such a system cannot be impeded, as ultimately only the employer can decide whether to introduce the system.
  • Such a system can also be used to grant premiums or bonuses.

For further information on this topic please contact Leen Holvoet or Paul Geerebaert at Liedekerke Wolters Waelbroeck Kirkpatrick by telephone (+32 25 51 19 58), fax (+32 25 51 14 53) or email (l.holvoet@liedekerke.com or p.geerebaert@liedekerke.com).


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