News & Legal Updates
Sign up to news & legal updates
Email is a great tool isn’t it? You have the power to send anything you want to the recipient, be that a quick message, a link to an interesting website, a photograph, or even attachments such as tribunal employment productions. All this at the click of a button.
There are many businesses, like ours, where a large part of the working day is spent working on a computer. Most businesses provide their staff with business email accounts in order that they can communicate with colleagues, clients, customers and so on.
What about employees using work email/internet for personal matters? I’m sure we have all done it at some point. I know I have. Be it a mass email with stag/hen doo arrangements or a quick email to the husband/partner/wife/mother to advise “I’ll be late home tonight, get me something decent for tea”. Of course, there will be far more sinister examples than these. What power does an employer have to regulate personal use of email/internet during working time?
The starting point is of course in the employer’s own policies. It is prudent for employers to have an email/internet policy. This can be used to set the boundaries. For example, is it a zero tolerance approach of no personal emails from work? Many employers opt for allowing reasonable personal use. Some opt for permitting use during the employee’s lunch breaks only.
That is all fine and well. How, though, can an employer ever police this? Surely checking staff emails/internet use would infringe their human rights?
A recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights provides some encouraging news for those employers who have that rogue employee who sends ten personal emails for every one work email. InBarbulescu v Romania an employee was dismissed having used the company’s internet to send personal messages during working hours. The Court held that the employee’s rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights had not been breached. Article 8 protects the right to respect for private/family life and correspondence.
The employer monitored the employee’s use of the internet, informed him of this fact and dismissed him (in accordance with their policies) when they discovered various personal messages sent during working time. The discovery was accidental – i.e. the employer was not purposely seeking out personal messages. The Court held that there was no breach of Article 8 on the basis that it was reasonable and proportionate for the employer to be able to verify that workers were in fact working during working hours.
Probably time I go and check our own email policy – but not until I’ve emailed the lads to tee up Friday pints…
The opinions expressed in this site are of the author(s) only and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Blackadders LLP.
Blackadders takes all reasonable steps to ensure that the content of this site is accurate and up to date. The site is not, however, intended as a substitute for seeking legal or other professional advice but rather as an informative guide to the services provided by Blackadders and topical legal developments. Site visitors should always seek advice tailored to their specific situation. Consequently, Blackadders accepts no responsibility for any loss or damage suffered by anyone acting or failing to act on the basis of information contained on this site. Downloading of material contained on this site is at the user’s own risk and all necessary virus checks must first be carried out by the user. Blackadders is not responsible for the material found on any web sites linked to this one and links to this site may only be made with Blackadders prior consent.
Blackadders owns the copyright in this blog and all material contained on it. The material on this site may be downloaded for personal use only and must not be altered. Otherwise, Blackadders’ written consent is required before any material on this site is reproduced, copied or transmitted in any way.
Information passed to us via this site is kept confidential and will not be disclosed to third parties except if authorised by you or required by law.
© Blackadders LLP 2020
Members of the Law Society of Scotland.
Blackadders Solicitors is a trading name of Blackadders LLP, a limited liability partnership, registered in Scotland No SO301600 whose registered office is 30 & 34 Reform Street, Dundee, DD1 1RJ. Reference to a ‘partner’ is to a member of Blackadders LLP.Back to News & Legal Updates