As an Employer do you have the right to monitor and read your employees’ emails?
Yes – Emails sent or received through a company email account are generally not considered private. Employers are free to monitor these communications, as long as there’s a valid business purpose for doing so. Many companies reinforce this right by giving employees written notice (for example, in a staff handbook) that their work email isn’t private and that the company is monitoring these messages.
An employer’s ability to monitor emails sent or received on an employee’s personal, web-based account (for example, a personal Hotmail or Gmail account) is more complicated. In general, this type of monitoring is more likely to be allowed if the employee is using company equipment and has consented in writing to the employer’s monitoring of all computer use. For example, many companies will have employees sign a written acknowledgement of a company policy that company-issued equipment is for business use only and that all activities will be monitored by the company.
As an employer you may wish to monitor their emails for various reasons, such as the safe guarding of employees at work to ensure workers aren’t at risk from unsafe working, but bear in mind that the information gathered through monitoring should only be used for the purpose it was carried out for, unless it leads to the discovery of other things such as a breach of health and safety.
Employees should not expect that the email messages they write at work will remain private and a court would usually side with the employer, however do remember that workers are entitled to some privacy at work
So how can you avoid problems with workplace email? Communicate to your employees to treat their work emails as they would their work phone and limit correspondence to work related messages and not to use their personal email accounts on company equipment.
For more information on rolling out a policy in respect of the above, please contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org