Are your employees emails their own affair?

July 2018

Are your employees emails their own affair?

There can’t be many, if indeed any, workplaces that don’t have open Internet access and work email accounts for their employees. But that doesn’t mean that they can send jokey emails, watch the tennis and carry out hours of social media activity without consequence. The reason for that lies largely in a case taken to the European Court of Human rights.This 2016 article from The Telegraph reports on it.

Strasbourg legal eagles made the decision that employers have the right to spy on staff’s work emails and so forth following the sacking of a Romanian engineer found messaging his fiancée on Yahoo chat. The employee in question had been given Yahoo chat for work purposes.

All of this said, there are of course caveats and considerations for the employer. Not least of which is GDPR.  As this article in the Birmingham Mail points out, as a boss you have every right to monitor your staff’s electronic communications. BUT. You must pre-warn them. You must tell your employees what monitoring arrangements you have in place and the reasons for them. No playing I-Spy without they know the rules of the game!

Are your employees emails their own affair

From an HR perspective, ACAS outlines these key points about workplace monitoring and the reasons for doing it.

  • You must, must, must, must have policies and procedures in place about workplace monitoring. And they MUST be written down. This is your golden rule.

Your policies should explain with clarity the extent – if any at all – of personal use your employees are allowed. It also needs to explain that you may well check on their computer use and what the consequences are of breaching the policy. Your policy needs to emphasise that you forbid them from sending unsuitable and inappropriate email material that relates to:

  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Race
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religious or political convictions and 
  • Disabilty
  • This monitoring must not be excessive and it should be justifiable. You’ll need to take care if finding message that are clearly private and personal. The onus is on you, the employer, to be circumspect. Yet, if you feel this usage contravenes your policy then you must raise it with the staff member as soon as possible.

 

  • You should communicate to your staff what information you’re recording, why you’re recording it and how long you will keep it for.

 

  • Any information you collect through monitoring should be kept secure.

Anyone that’s raised either a puppy or a child will know that the best approach is three-pronged one:

  1. Firm
  2. Fair
  3. Consistent

Well, it’s much the same with the monitoring of workplace emails and Internet usage. As the contributor to the Birmingham Mail article points out – problems come about when excessive use is tolerated. In particular if inappropriate images and jokes are involved. What’s needed is a robust and consistent approach to ensure cooperation from all concerned.

And as for employees – if you don’t want a message to be read then don’t send it over your employer’s system. Simples.

If you’re an employer and this is a situation you’d like advice and support with then get in touch.  Send a message via the webform or call the office on 01793 877787.

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