There are risks and liabilities with the use of email and internet at work which can be avoided by the introduction of a policy which sets out clear guidelines and restrictions on the use of either medium. It is common that breaches of an email or internet policy which should cover social media will be a disciplinary matter and also that it is normal for employers to monitor the use of both email and internet at work.
The key elements of an email and internet policy are:
Notification that email and internet are provided for business use only or notification of what level of personal use is acceptable to the employer
Guidelines on access to and the use of computer systems and software and details of computer security procedures
Notification that emails may be read by the employer and that the use of computer facilities is monitored
A ban on sending pornographic, discriminatory or other obscene or inappropriate material and a warning that doing so may render the employee liable to criminal and civil liabilities
A ban on downloading and sending defamatory messages, reminding employees that such remarks may constitute liable harassment or other unlawful discrimination
A reminder that back up systems and retrieval capability means that messages can be retrieved and may not be removed entirely from the system
A warning that legally binding contracts can be formed by email correspondence even inadvertently
A warning that breach of any element of the email and internet policy may result in disciplinary action which may include summary dismissal
Include guidance on what is and is not acceptable with regards to the use of social media.
Employers should also protect their employees from the unauthorised dissemination of personal data which relates to them. All of these considerations apply equally to facsimile communications.
To this end employers should:
Ensure that they have an information systems security policy which properly addresses the risk of transmitting employee information by email
Only transmit information between locations if a secure network is in place
Ensure that all copies of emails received by managers are held securely and that access to them is restricted
Provide a means whereby managers can permanently delete such emails from personal work stations
Draw to the attention to all employees the risk of sending confidential or sensitive personal information by email
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