Call centres are set to face a legal challenge from workers who claim that some working practices contravene the Human Rights Act.
Vanguard Consulting managing director John Seddon is currently advising a former Halifax call centre employee in Leeds on a tribunal claim against her former employer. The employee claims her working environment led her to become stressed and depressed.
Seddon predicted her claim would be the first of many brought under the Act. “I reckon as workers hear about this and as unions hear about this, there will be more of it,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the industry trade organisation, the Call Centre Association, said it was the first challenge brought under the Act.
“It's not something we've come across as yet,” she said.
Seddon points to the advice given by the Institute of Managers (IOM) on the Act, which backs up his argument.
The IOM said managers should consider the aim and effect of measures that may be judged by employees to be unlawful discrimination.
“Managers should only use a measure if they can demonstrate it is fair and reasonable, given the aim,” Seddon said.
The scientific measuring used by most centres to monitor staff productivity was not reasonable, he said, but more like a lottery.
“All call centres measure people on the number of calls they do in a day. If they don't do them, it is paid attention to.”
He said people were not judged by their skill or experience, but purely on the number of calls made.
“If you have had a difficult day, the statistics won't look good.”
The TUC looked into working conditions in call centres earlier this year. Many staff complained their work was monitored excessively.
More than half of the staff had the length and frequency of their toilet breaks noted and many said they did not get adequate breaks from their work.
Other concerns included poor health and safety procedures.