STAFF at a telecommunications call centre say they are worried and have pleaded for help after claiming they are being “treated with no respect” during the coronavirus outbreak.

Employees across departments in Darlington’s EE call centre say they would like to know why they are “being made” to go into work while other companies have adopted remote working, “and also why is sales important”.

The confusion comes after telecommunications staff were classed as key workers by the government, as phones may be a person’s only type of connectivity.

However, staff in sales and debt collection departments say they do not see how their role is essential.

The government has been contacted for clarification.

One employee said EE is a "good company to work for, but the way this is being handled is horrendous”.

“We keep getting told the same thing over and over, that we keep the country connected and we should be proud of that.

“Part of me is, but I can’t see how that is important right now when all other sales companies are closing their doors until further notice.

“All I want is the company to look out for its staff and forget about money for the next few months.”

Different employees told The Northern Echo that social distancing was not being practised, with one saying they are “sat on each other’s laps” and that cleaning is not adequate. One person said some areas had not been cleaned “for weeks”.

A spokesperson for EE said it has “significantly increased cleaning services” and is implementing social distancing, including staggering shift start times.

While staff can self-isolate, one employee said those who do for more than seven says are invited to a meeting where they may receive a disciplinary sanction.

“If you’re off for more than seven days, you will be invited to a disciplinary meeting. If you are sanctioned in that meeting, you won’t get paid if you’re off sick again. People are clearly making decisions not to self isolate because they don’t want to be staged and lose money if they’re ill in the future,” an employee said.

“EE is not supporting employees at this time – I’m so worried. Many people in my department are scared to take time off and are here visibly unwell.”

A spokesperson for the company said if colleagues aren’t healthy, or have to isolate, they are paid in full.

However one person said: “There are people that have been isolating that have felt forced to come back to work and then go off sick again because they are still not well.

“If we knew, we could take precautions. All I want to do is keep my family safe. I don’t want my young kids to grow up without a parent. Please help us.”

Employees have been offered free meals on site, as a thank you, while other sites have seen further measures such as one-way systems.