Is your office constantly being disturbed by the sound of mobile phones ringing as well as the beeping of SMSs? Can your business ban mobile phone usage in the workplace?

Many workplaces now have a mobile phone policy to ensure that the work environment is not disrupted. Some ban the use of private mobiles altogether or don’t allow them to be turned on in the workplace during work hours. Others allow their use with a requirement for a silent ring or a low-level ring.

The Australian Industrial Relations Commission recently endorsed a policy banning the use of mobiles while employees are working. The case in question involved a worker driving a fork-lift while speaking on a mobile phone. The Commission held that the policy became a lawful instruction of the company and warned that an employee who disobeyed such a lawful instruction may be subject to disciplinary procedures by the company.

Employees who spend time out of the office on work duties may be supplied with a mobile phone. The primary purpose of the phone is usually to allow the employee to have contact with other staff or customers. Therefore, the policy could provide that private usage of a company supplied mobile phone should be kept to a minimum. It may be necessary to monitor such calls and to request reimbursement of the cost of private calls.

As the safety of mobiles is not yet known, it may be wise to warn employees of the suggested risks they pose and to suggest that they take steps to attempt to prevent injury. For example, by telling employees to limit the number and duration of calls, to hold the phone a little away from their head and to minimise the use of mobiles in enclosed spaces where they are likely to have to transmit at a higher power level.

The use of a mobile phone while driving is illegal in most states as well as being a major safety risk. Accordingly, employees using mobiles on company business in cars should be provided with a hands-free car kit, particularly where they spend a lot of their work time driving, such as salespeople.

If you would like more information about business policies, or if you have any other questions in relation to employment law issues, please contact Anika Fleet or email

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