Want to make a personal call while at work? Forget it if you are working at a company in Abu Dhabi.
The firm in question has been keeping employees’ mobile phones under lock and key during working hours. A memo was issued a month ago asking employees to surrender mobile phones in their respective departments before going to their desks.
Staff are angry and frustrated with their company’s policy. “This is crazy and inhuman. My mobile phone is mine and I have every right to keep it with me and use it with discretion while at work. We are not slaves,” an angry employee told XPRESS.
The company refused to give an official statement on the issue. But a senior management official said the company does not want its employees to waste time. “Is it right for them to make personal calls when they are expected to work? We can make our own policies and we do not want anyone to interfere in our company affairs,” he said.
However, employees said the confiscation of their phones amounts to an infringement of personal rights. “Of course, we are here to work and not to waste time. But that does not mean that we cannot take or make personal calls,” said another employee.
He said the management has forced all employees to sign an undertaking that leaves them with no choice but to follow “all rules, policies and regulations as stated in the company’s handbook.”
“But the handbook didn’t say anything about not carrying cellphones. So we were shocked when they told us verbally that we cannot take our phones to our desks,” said the employee.
Not same for all
The company has around 90 employees and the mobile use restriction during office hours does not apply at management level.
Staff are allowed to use phones during the 40 minute lunch break and two coffee breaks.
Newman Ponniah, a senior human resources specialist, said companies can draw up policies encouraging responsible use of cellphones in the workplace as per the best policies in HR.
Legal experts said companies have no right to deny access to mobile phones to their employees except for security reasons.
“A mobile phone is a personal possession of a person and companies have no right to confiscate it during work hours. Such an action infringes on the rights of employees,” said Soud Mohammad Abdul Aziz, an Emirati lawyer based in Abu Dhabi.
According to her, some companies can deny access to mobile phones as an exception if it concerns the security of the place or of employees.
“In a normal work atmosphere, employers can only instruct their workforce not to waste time on personal calls and keep a watch on them, but cannot invade their privacy,” she added.