Minister lays down new rules for workers at call centres

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The Independent Online
NEW RULES on call centres, criticised for bringing a new sweatshop culture to Britain, will be announced by a minister today.

Ian McCartney, the Cabinet Office minister, will introduce new standards which will be compulsory in the public sector and will also be introduced in many private sector centres.

Staff and other organisations including the white-collar union MSF have complained about low morale, long hours and poor conditions in the centres, which employ almost 400,000 people. Workers often have little contact with one another, contracts are short term and staff turnover is high.

Mr McCartney's policy will set out minimum requirements for training, improving relationships between staff and better equal opportunities. Adocument to be published later by the Health and Safety Executive will add more detail on health requirements for staff.

Mr McCartney said a new "convenience culture" was about to sweep Britain. "We are taking the issue of poor working standards by the neck here," he said. "Increasingly we are driving standards up, and these guidelines will help. There will be a significant change in culture, and in the public sector call centres won't be allowed to operate unless they do this."

As well as addressing labour standards, the code will aim to improve service by bringing in "mystery callers" to check standards. There will be a limit on the number of times callers are bounced between departments, and a rule demanding that the majority of calls should be dealt with by the first person who answers the phone.