New court ruling gives employers free reign to snoop on private communication….NOT QUITE!

Yes we’re quite sure that in some areas of the media there will be a loud and outraged announcement that the ruling yesterday by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) means employers can now rifle their way through any electronic private  communications made on work computers.

So to set the record straight – as usual it ain’t that simple!

In the case in question – the company had a complete ban on private or personal use of any work equipment or personal communication during work time. It was decided in this case therefore that any monitoring the company did could only have been done on the assumption that it would be viewing work related content. When they found extensive personal communication they dismissed an employee who subsequently lost his claim that the company had breached his right to confidential corresepondence.

If your company allow “reasonable personal use” or similar limits, then to monitor and read all personal electronic correspondence with no warning to that effect could still breach individual rights to confidentialty. It could possibly entitle an employe to resign and claim constructive dismissal which can be a costly matter for an employer.

So really the message is as it ever was – if you want to keep an eye on what your employees are doing on their work provided computers and / or phones you need to have a clear justification for doing so and you need to put a fair monitoring policy in place that all employees are made aware of.


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