Work phone porn case highlights rules around using professional devices

Work phone porn case highlights rules around using professional devices

A 42-year-old headteacher has been banned from teaching for life after pornography was found on her work phone, a misconduct panel heard.

Catherine Jones, from Oldham in Greater Manchester, was given a new work iPhone in June 2015 when she asked an IT apprentice to back up photos from her previous phone to her laptop.

The IT staff told the panel that “when backing up the device, he had seen images of an explicit sexual nature”, while others reported seeing “images of explicit sexual acts”.

The former history teacher, who was promoted to headteacher of Stoneleigh Academy in 2012- now Willowpark Academy in Oldham, Greater Manchester- has been found guilty of a string of other misconduct offences, the panel heard.

The married mum-of-two was also found guilty of stealing £350 from a PTA collection to contribute towards her mortgage.

The Teaching Regulation Agency panel in Coventry also concluded that she had doctored pupils’ SATs grades to improve the Academy's overall results.

The panel found that she used her work phone to insult colleagues, texting a colleague “personal information about members of staff and inappropriate and derogatory comments”.

Jones was not present at the hearing.

Can I monitor what staff use their work phones for?

This case may make you concerned about what your staff are using their work-issued devices for. However, it is important to know what you can and can't look at.

Under certain circumstances, snooping is legal. If you provide the phone wholly for work reasons, then you can check phone logs or recording of phone calls, look at what emails are being sent and received, and see what websites are being visited. Make sure you have a code of conduct in place that clearly explains this to employees so there are no awkward misunderstandings later on.

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However, Article 8 of the European Convention on Human rights, guarantees the right of respect for privacy, family life and private correspondence. Last year a Romanian engineer won a court case against his employer after they sacked him for sending private Yahoo messages from his office account to his partner.

The court said that an employer “cannot reduce private social life in the workplace to zero.” So, make sure you are on the right side of the law before you start snooping.

Even though what I want to do is legal, should I do it?

While you obviously want to keep an eye on productivity, a little trust can go a long way. Chris Roberts, Practice Director of Accelerating Experience, told HR Grapevine that micromanagement is a “current day plague which is killing value in many businesses.” He added that in the best performing companies, senior business leaders set the tone from the top, acting as role models and generating high levels of trust, which liberates talent.

So, while you need to ensure employees aren’t doing anything illegal or dangerous on work property, opening every email or snooping through everyone they are calling is probably a waste of time.

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