In recent weeks, the European employment law case on monitoring staff email use made headlines, the ECHR ruled that an employer had lawfully dismissed an employee for his personal use of his work email and business Yahoo messenger account, as his use was in breach of his Company’s policy. The ECHR Judge went on to comment that an employer has a right to monitor whether an employee is conducting their job properly and in this case, the Company had not breached the employee’s ‘right to respect a private and family life’ under the Human Rights Act.
So is it as simple as saying that employers have a carte blanche right to ‘spy’ on employees’ online usage at work? Well that depends on, and is highly dependent upon the steps put in place by the employer. So what do we know about managing staff online usage?
- An IT Communications Policy setting out rules on email, online communication and internet (online) use at work by staff is essential to managing online usage and disciplining employees.
- An Employer should explicitly reserve the right to monitor staff online usage.
- Systematic monitoring of employee online use is likely to be unlawful.
- An employer should identify a specific reason for monitoring online use or adopt a random monitoring approach so that monitoring is more likely to be considered lawful and results can be replied upon to stop misuse through disciplinary action.
- Don’t forget that Electronic forms of workplace monitoring involve the processing of personal data and are, therefore, regulated by the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA 1998)!
Gemma Murphy, Director of ViewHR says that “if you dismiss an employee for misuse of email or internet use, a policy will be a key factor for whether a Tribunal will consider it to be fair or unfair”. Gemma goes on to say “irrespective of the lawfulness of online monitoring in the workplace, spying on staff is likely to impact upon the culture of the business, so I would recommend that monitoring of online use should be conducted when considered necessary or for a specific reason.”
To some extent, most businesses operate in conjunction with the online world, we cannot escape it but businesses can take steps to protect themselves from employees misusing work email, internet and business online communication portals (for example, Whatsapp, Yahoo Messenger). Not doing anything is not an option, in today’s society an IT Communications Policy is as essential as a Company’s Sickness Absence Policy.
For additional information and advice, contact us on 01425 205391 or at email@example.com. Alternatively, visit www.viewhr.co.uk to find out more about ViewHR’s services.