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Myth Busting: Can we monitor our employees’ company email accounts and internet usage?

This type of monitoring is subject to the principles of the Data Protection Act 1988

Myth

  • Can we monitor our employees’ company email accounts and internet usage?

Busted

This type of monitoring is subject to the principles of the Data Protection Act 1988.

Guidance provided by the Information Commissioner recommends that employers must conduct an impact assessment before monitoring employees to ensure that there is a fair balance between an employee’s expectation of privacy and an employer’s right to protect its business.

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Once you have done this, you must advise your employees of:

• The circumstances in which monitoring may take place.
• The nature of the monitoring.
• How this information will be used.
• The safeguards in place to prevent abuse.

Simply telling employees that their e-mails and internet usage may be monitored is unlikely to be sufficient. You must also pro-actively take steps to ensure that your staff are aware of your policy.

It is not enough to add the policy to your intranet or handbook and hope that your staff read it. Instead, ensure that the contents of the policy are dealt with in the induction process for new workers and consider setting up IT systems so workers must read the policy in full from time to time before they can access e-mail or the internet.

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