HR and the Post Packet Interception Act or Data Protection
Can you legally record telephone calls in Ireland? I am sure that most of you have heard the warning at the beginning of a call into a call centre or you may have even received a call from a call centre stating the call may be recorded for training and quality.
Well the answer as far as I was always concerned no you can’t record telephone calls in Ireland for HR purposes! Don’t freak out and say you're wrong, because I know you can record calls, but if you are getting this one wrong it could be very costly. Call recording isn’t illegal but how you are using the call recordings may very well be illegal and could land you personally in prison.
I have been working in call centres for over thirty years, first as an agent then a manager, now as a consultant. Around the millennium I was commissioned by the Federation of European Direct Marketing Association to research the Irish market and compare Ireland to other European standards for call centres. The one thing that really made us stand out was a single law, the post packet interception act. The law deals with wiretapping and this law simply states that calls intercepted by a third party can ONLY be recorded for quality and coaching purposes.
So to make this very clear for so many of you that get this wrong, if you listen to an employee making a call on behalf of your company and decide that they have committed a breach of their terms and conditions of service by something said. You may coach them to improve this situation, you may express that the call is unacceptable in quality and provide additional training for this employee. Or you may ignore it, what you cannot do is serve the employee with a disciplinary action.
Using call recording to manage your staff is illegal in Ireland. It is wiretapping unless you are using the recording to benefit the staff member and the organisation to improve quality. If you are using calls in disciplinary procedures, you had better stop doing it or you are going to have big problems. You are in breach of a law that is punishable by up to ten years in prison.
Or Data Protection
I recently heard of a company using recorded calls in a disciplinary procedure when I was in the middle of explaining to someone about why they needn’t worry about calls being recorded. So I though I had better check, only to find a recent court ruling stating that the post packet interception act had failed to be upheld in a case of an employee being recorded. So I thought I had better check this baby out again and low and behold we are still living with this law being untested and so I thought you had better get something. So I wrote to the data protection registrar and asked for clear guidelines on the use of recordings and here is what they said.
As the Data Protection Acts state that a person's information should only
be collected for specific purposes of which they should be pre-advised, the
purpose(s) for which the calls are being recorded should be pointed out to
callers before any personal data is collected. For inbound calls, data
controllers may wish to consider having a pre-recorded message. Any
pre-recorded message should reflect the exact purposes for recording the
call, i.e. training purposes, dispute resolution purposes etc.
Although the language is a little difficult to get a handle on it states:
“monitoring, including employees’ email or internet usage, surveillance by camera, video cameras or location data must comply with the transparency requirements of data protection law. Staff must be informed of the existence of the surveillance, and also the purposes for which personal data are to be processed.”
And finally keep in mind that the recorded message must state each and every intention for the call recording and the Post Packet Interception Act is still the law. It specifically precludes the use of call recordings any legal issue or any other action other than training and quality improvements.