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Sunderthine

Call Cascades At Work (And Home!)

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I've just cracked open a particularly large can of worms at work, and was curious to get the off-topic opinion on it:

I work a 9-5 Mon-Fri office job, doing nothing particularly challenging for not much money - if I died tomorrow, someone could be trained up to replace me in a month (and if they weren't, no-one would notice). Regardless, my employer has decided that I am useful enough to be on a list of "Primary Roles" for Business Continuity purposes. This basically means that in the event of the building burning down, I would be expected to travel to a contingency site. Or if the four horsemen descended on my workplace, to get on with my job while fending them off with a pointy stick. This is fine by me - I'm of the opinion that when I'm at work and being paid, my job is to do whatever my employer tells me to do,as long as it's safe and legal.

However, today I was called into a meeting with the department head for failing a BCM call cascade last night. Apparently, by agreeing to "participate in BCM testing" (something which has been added to my contract this year) I am required once a quarter to respond to an automated call/text message within 2 hours of receiving it, any time of day or night. I was told that the first failure is a verbal warning, the second a written warning, and a third could lead to dismissal. I told them that as I had myriad responsibilities (and funnily enough a social life) outside of work, I couldn't possibly guarantee I would be contactable 24/7, so should be taken off the list. This is apparently not an option. I MUST agree to be contacted, and I MUST respond to the calls. The alternative is resignation.

So.... wtf? Am I being incredibly naive by assuming this is an unenforceable, onerous contractual term which couldn't possibly stand up in the event of an unfair/constructive dismissal claim?

I don't hugely object to my employer having my contact details, or even occasionally trying to contact me outside of my working hours... but the implication that I should be checking my personal phone every 2 hours just in case they've called is a little too much to stomach. There is nothing in my contract about being "on call".

Interested to get opinions. Thanks!

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I agree with your assessment, its unenforcable in a court of law. They could write anything in your contract, if it doesnt stack up with actual employement law it can not be enfoced by anyone.

Yout contracted hours are exactly that, and passing your personal details on to a third party without consent is in breach of the data protection act.

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So they can call you without notice once anytime every quarter?

So that means you can't have a drink of an evening as you could be called upon to drive somewhere at any time? You could not go out for a relaxing meal, attend a celebration, go to the gym or theatre and any film over 2 hours and you are screwed.

Sounds like you are being asked to do something that is unreasonable. Do you feel stressed and bullied? Go and see your doctor about the stress and get some time off work.

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I agree with your assessment, its unenforcable in a court of law. They could write anything in your contract, if it doesnt stack up with actual employement law it can not be enfoced by anyone.

Yout contracted hours are exactly that, and passing your personal details on to a third party without consent is in breach of the data protection act.

+1 - you can't sign away your Rights.

What kind of organisation? Public or private sector?

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required once a quarter to respond to an automated call/text message within 2 hours of receiving it,

Right there is your get out clause, they may be able to prove they attempted to contact you with a call but they cant prove that you received it. Make sure they don't have access to a valid land line, buy a cheapo mobile, disable any answering service and turn it off when not in work. Next time they challenge you - just say "I didn't receive any message must have been bad reception or you got the wrong number."

They won't like it but it will be very difficult for them to prove it was you at fault rather than the person calling.

Also most decent employers pay something like a 10% uplift for being on call plus overtime if you are actually called out. find a better job.

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I suggest finding another job.

Why??

I would simply ignore the whole matter (and only answer the call cascade if I happen to notice it anyway) and if they fired me I would sue them for unfair dismissal.

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required once a quarter to respond to an automated call/text message within 2 hours of receiving it,

Right there is your get out clause, they may be able to prove they attempted to contact you with a call but they cant prove that you received it. Make sure they don't have access to a valid land line, buy a cheapo mobile, disable any answering service and turn it off when not in work. Next time they challenge you - just say "I didn't receive any message must have been bad reception or you got the wrong number."

They won't like it but it will be very difficult for them to prove it was you at fault rather than the person calling.

Also most decent employers pay something like a 10% uplift for being on call plus overtime if you are actually called out. find a better job.

+1

I regularly do on-call cover but even my skinflint employer pays me an on call allowance, a call out fee and provides me with an on call mobile phone.

Expecting you to supply the phone and pay the call charges is taking the p*ss. Moreover since they do not pay for your phone they have no right to control its use. Any court would deem it unreasonable for them to expect that your phone would be kept available exclusively for them to use when they require (ie who is to know that your wife or kids are not going to be tying up the phone when a disaster at work happens). Sounds like they want DR on the cheap but don't want to pay for it

If you have not agreed to do the cover then it is not contractually binding as it was not in the terms and conditions when you were engaged. Employers are not entitled to vary these unconditionally

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I don't hugely object to my employer having my contact details, or even occasionally trying to contact me outside of my working hours... but the implication that I should be checking my personal phone every 2 hours just in case they've called is a little too much to stomach. There is nothing in my contract about being "on call".

Interested to get opinions. Thanks!

That's ridiculous. Your employer is asking you to be on call 24/7. As mentioned here, are they saying you can basically never have a drink? Perhaps you should get a spare car in case yours is in the garage for repair. What if you want a weekend away, or go abroad? I work for an oil company and it's normal that we have people on "Emergency Response" in case of a disaster. They are VP's, paid hundreds of thousands, and share a rota, they can swop dates, and no one is on call more than 2 weeks of any year. That's reasonable.

Edit: *what if you fancy going scuba diving for 3 hours?

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Why??

I would simply ignore the whole matter (and only answer the call cascade if I happen to notice it anyway) and if they fired me I would sue them for unfair dismissal.

Because it's way less hassle overall and it seems clear that the OP's current employers are a bunch of jerks. Far easier to go and find a job with a better company, possibly for more money, than go through all the grief of a prolonged confrontation. Life is way too short for that assuming you have other options.

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There's no way this can be enforceable as others have said. What's more, it shows that your employer doesn't know how to organise its DR policy properly anyway.

What kind of organisation is it? Do they have, or aspire to any recognitions or awards, like an ISO certification or some industry specific thing? It would be interesting to know whether or not this form of testing is actually written in to their policy documentation. I'd suspect not.

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There's no way this can be enforceable as others have said. What's more, it shows that your employer doesn't know how to organise its DR policy properly anyway.

What kind of organisation is it? Do they have, or aspire to any recognitions or awards, like an ISO certification or some industry specific thing? It would be interesting to know whether or not this form of testing is actually written in to their policy documentation. I'd suspect not.

But is it DR Policy or WCO Policy?

There is a difference

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But is it DR Policy or WCO Policy?

There is a difference

I'll quite freely admit you've out-acronymed me there.

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Thanks for all the thoughts so far - mostly what I was thinking myself , and the outrage is appreciated.

Hopefully to clarify a few things:

- Massive private sector global corporate, household name

- Calls are automated and log receipt of text / answer

- I am not on call to go to work, I just have to acknowledge the calls within 2 hours by voice or text

...Which I regard as basically being at work. I define my job as doing whatever my employer tells me to do...while I'm at work. My contract pretty much says the same, but omits the "while at work" bit with sh*t like this. The punchline here is that we are on 37 hour flexi-time contracts, and have to complete timesheets each day too!

One of the most annoying things is that they're not inept or bungling. That would be easier to get around. The BCM/DR plan is actually pretty solid, and fortunately not that unreasonable. In the event of something happening we'll arrive at the crater / fight through the zombie hordes etc. and call a dedicated incident line, which will tell us what's happening and what to do. We won't even be contacted by phone if we're actually needed. The call cascade validates the contact number, but the contact number is only needed to perform the test. :rolleyes:

All the ins and outs aside though, I'd just love to get the message through to my employer that they get the time they pay for, and I do what's asked of me during that time. Done. Seems like a fair exchange to me. Question is does employment legislation agree?

Jacking it in is sorely tempting but not really an option at the mo... I shall be pressing the issue tomorrow and we'll see what happens.

Ta.

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I'd be of the firm opinion that you should just tell them to poke it, except for...

Apparently, by agreeing to "participate in BCM testing" (something which has been added to my contract this year)

Did you sign up to this amendment to your contract? I Am Not A Lawyer, but if you did you might be on a sticky wicket. It's obviously profoundly unreasonable to expect you to respond to a text they send you at any time out of work hours within 2 hours of receiving it, but if you did sign up, even without understanding the implications, it's going to be a lot harder to wriggle out of it, I reckon.

If it was presented as a fait accompli and you've not signed anything to agree to it just tell them to shove it, or negotiate suitable recompense to be on call for specific times when you're not at work.

Edit: Obviously if your workplace is unionised go straight to them (or join, and go straight to them :P )

6 months after starting my first job (when I was 20) my company was taken over by another company who changed our terms and conditions (mainly regarding bonus/commission payments). I was called a few times to pressure me into signing the new contract, but I'm pretty sure I never did, and carried on in my role albeit with a de-facto pay cut for about a year. If I knew then what I know now I reckon I'd have been a lot more assertive about negotiating an increase in my basic wage to compensate for the loss of commission. As I was a disorganised git who basically got away with turning up 10-15 mins late for work every day for ages I didn't press the matter!

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Your department head doesn't have a clue what this sort of cascade is for. Their chat about warnings etc - is IMO just made up. Contact the team that run the BC team and ask them. I imagine they may be surprised by these threats. That's not the point of these regular tests.

People not responding is kind of within the point - gives them an idea of the average % of staff that will respond in the preferred time.

I have done these things before when I was only on a contract. Its fairly standard.

Sounds like your boss is a dick and doesn't know what they ate talking about. Speak to those that run it - they should be helpful.

PS I once heard of a great way to do testing. Within the cascade call their is an instruction to wear something specific to work the next day. Then the next morning the BC team just walk around the office and can instantly tell where there are communication problems with the cascade - and work on it.

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Get the legal opinion re contract and contract law.

Go along with the 3 strikes and get fired.

Sue them.

Think American :)

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Used to work for a small IT company which offered (since most of the customers were retailers) out-of-hours support including Saturdays and Sundays.

It was a small team and this was always undertaken by one particular person who I suspect was a shareholder or received compensation for this (I can't see any other possible explanations).

I was never asked because the boss knew I'd want payment or some other recompense.

The other guy in the office who could have done this simply said he didn't have a mobile phone and didn't want one. It really was that simple.

I suppose the boss could have bought him a mobile phone, but I suspect he would have done the same with it as I would have - left it on my desk charging at the end of the day and gone home.

If a small company and something very serious happened then I'd have taken a call at home. It might have been in my interest to do so if I were the only person who could fix it quickly and the company would be jeopardised otherwise. That is different: a rare exception, with my agreement.

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Used to work for a small IT company which offered (since most of the customers were retailers) out-of-hours support including Saturdays and Sundays.

It was a small team and this was always undertaken by one particular person who I suspect was a shareholder or received compensation for this (I can't see any other possible explanations).

I was never asked because the boss knew I'd want payment or some other recompense.

The other guy in the office who could have done this simply said he didn't have a mobile phone and didn't want one. It really was that simple.

I suppose the boss could have bought him a mobile phone, but I suspect he would have done the same with it as I would have - left it on my desk charging at the end of the day and gone home.

If a small company and something very serious happened then I'd have taken a call at home. It might have been in my interest to do so if I were the only person who could fix it quickly and the company would be jeopardised otherwise. That is different: a rare exception, with my agreement.

You are really unreasonable Mark! Asking for recompense, for the company cutting into YOUR time! ;):(

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