From use to abuse with the company mobile

In order to carry out her work, an employee has been issued a mobile phone by her employee. The company does not have a mobile phone policy so there is no specification as to whether it may be used for private purposes. The employee assumes, on this basis, that unlimited private calls may be made.

Making calls at the expense of the employer

Her employee discovers that she is calling 0900 numbers (astrology lines) for about 90 Euro per day. In the end, the employer goes to the Labour Court and demands the repayment of 13,665 Euro for a period of 10 months. The employee objects on the basis that, as a result of a lack of instructions, she assumed that she could make private calls and that she had received no feedback regarding the calls for many months.

The company mobile is an employment tool

The Labour Court of Ghent immediately rejected the employee’s arguments, with the assertion that the mobile phone remained an employment tool and that it must be used by the employee in good faith. Calling astrology lines almost every day constitutes a serious, inexcusable error which must be reimbursed by the employee.

How private is the use of a company mobile?

The employee then argued that the checks made by the employer on her phone calls breached her privacy (article 8 of the ECHR) and that the findings were therefore null and void. The Labour Court ruled that the employer had not breached the privacy of the employee, given that she should have known that the details of her calls would end up in the possession of her employer. Furthermore, it is absolutely normal for an employer, who pays for the mobile phone subscription, to also check the invoices. Such invoice checks do not extend to uncovering the content of the conversations.

Clear agreements make happy people

This case, once again, highlights the fact that it is vital to set clear, written agreements between the employer and employee regarding mobile phone usage. It is only in this way that unpleasant surprises can be avoided. In this context, it must also be stressed that if private use of the mobile phone is permitted, this will be regarded by the social security authority as a wage and that the corresponding social security contributions must be paid. Finally, the private usage permitted by the employer will also be included when calculating the severance settlement in the event of redundancy. This is due to the fact that it is regarded as part of the wage.

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