University staff investigated over secretly recorded conversation

Administrator leaves role at Nottingham Trent following ‘unfair’ monitoring

March 13, 2019
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Two administrators at a UK university were the subject of an internal investigation after a private conversation they had on campus was secretly recorded by a colleague, Times Higher Education can reveal.

Nottingham Trent University carried out an investigation last year “in relation to the inappropriate content of a conversation” that took place between two members of staff, according to documents seen by THE. The recording was “brought to [the university’s] attention” by a third named employee.

Maggie-Lou Gamble, a former pre-award coordinator at Nottingham Trent’s research office and one of the employees who was recorded, said that in April 2018 she “had to go to an investigation panel and explain the conversation in its entirety, in addition to the context of the conversation”, which took place with her then manager.

She said that the conversation “relayed sensitive information relating to the person who recorded us”, including details of the person’s health and their level of job security.

THE understands that the conversation took place in an office that was shared by Ms Gamble’s manager and other senior staff.

The university concluded that “no further action” would be taken against Ms Gamble, noting that while the content of the conversation was “inappropriate...it is recognised that you were a junior colleague and that you did not instigate the conversation”.

Ms Gamble submitted her resignation at the start of October, but was not required to attend work during her three-month notice period.

In the meantime, she was offered a position at another UK university, and asked Nottingham Trent to provide a reference. In December, she received a WhatsApp message from her manager, seen by THE, which read: “You won’t be getting a reference from NTU. That’s life. You reap what you sow.” A reference was subsequently provided by another member of staff at the institution.

Ms Gamble told human resources in December that she wanted to raise a formal internal grievance against her manager but claimed that staff did not send her the necessary paperwork or notify her that they were having trouble contacting her by phone. As a former employee, she is no longer able to raise a grievance.

“I feel that this employer has not treated people fairly,” Ms Gamble said. “This monitoring has no place in a higher education institution, where free speech and a right to private life, which extends to a working environment, should be protected.”

A spokeswoman for Nottingham Trent said it would be “inappropriate for us to comment on individual cases”. 

ellie.bothwell@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (4)

It is actually illegal to record a conversation without someone’s consent. What disciplinary action was taken against the person who did so?
It’s not. It is, however, a civil (not criminal) offence to share a recording with others.
Actually in most countries not illegal to record a conversation. It may be illegal what you do with it afterwards, may violate employment policy (she is no longer employed and cannot be disciplined), and may be inadmissible in court. From what I understand not illegal to record a conversation in the UK. A lot of people misunderstand that unethical and illegal are not the same thing.
Just so it’s clear, I was not the one who made the recording. I was recorded, see above “third party.” Maggie-Lou

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