Work-life balance to what extent should employees be required to have work related technology on their personal mobile?
A recent employment tribunal ruling in Alsnih v. Al Quds Al-Arabi Publishing & Advertising has highlighted the need to consider employees’ rights to disconnect; the degree to which work-related technology intrudes into the personal lives of employees.
A recent employment tribunal case,, ruled that a journalist was unfairly dismissed for refusing to install a work-related app on her personal phone. The app was considered intrusive, and the journalist argued that it hindered her ability to separate work and personal life. The case raises important considerations for employers regarding technology use and employment status.
What are the facts?
The claimant worked as an Online News Editor for the respondent newspaper. In 2017, the respondent introduced an online planform and App called Viber to streamline article submissions and prevent duplication. While installation was initially voluntary, the claimant was asked to use Viber due to concerns about duplicated articles and install it on her phone.
The claimant objected, citing disruptions from constant messages. She requested alternatives – a work phone or to have the app installed on her laptop. The requests were denied and her access to work systems were subsequently blocked. She raised grievances of bullying, harassment, and race discrimination, before the employment relationship was eventually dismissed in 2020.
What did the Tribunal decide?
The employment tribunal concluded that the Claimant was unfairly dismissed, with the primary reason for her dismissal being the refusal to use the Viber app on her personal mobile phone.
The tribunal deemed the claimant’s refusal to use the Viber app could be a potentially fair reason for dismissal but as no reasonable employer would dismiss an employee for refusing an intrusive app on their personal phone, the dismissal was unfair. Potential alternative solutions existed, such as providing a work phone or installing the app on a laptop.
The dismissal was also procedurally unfair, with no prior investigation, disciplinary hearing, or warnings.
What can employers learn from the case?
- Explore Alternatives: When employees resist using technology, employers should consider alternative if there is an alternative solution – providing a work device or installing apps on work laptops. This can help address resistance while maintaining a reasonable work-life balance.
- Respect Work-Life Boundaries: Employers should be mindful of how work-related technology impacts employees’ personal lives. Requiring staff to monitor notifications outside regular working hours can blur the line between work and personal time and lead to objections and grievances.
- Right to Disconnect: Some countries and regions are considering laws that restrict contacting employees outside of normal working hours to protect work-life balance.
6th October 2023