The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled recently the dismissal of a Romanian worker in breach of his employer’s company policy was lawful.
Bogdan Barbulescu, who was sacked in 2007 for sending personal emails from his work account, argued that his employer had breached his right to a private life by reading his emails.
On instructions from his employer, Mr Barbulescu had set up a work Yahoo account. During working hours it emerged he had been sending emails to his brother and girlfriend, discussing topics ranging from his health to his sex life.
The ECHR, in defence of their decision, set out that Mr Barbulescu had been forewarned by his employer that his emails could be checked. The court ruled that his right to a private life hadn’t been breached and that his employer was entitled to sift through his emails.
In light of the decision, several trade unions have encouraged employers not to intentionally “snoop” through employee’s emails and to ensure safeguards are put in place. Simon Walker of the Institute of Directors, said “Employees should not be subject to Stasi-style surveillance at work.”
Advice for Employees
A few simple tips will help keep most employees out of the gaze of trouble:
1. Firstly employees should resist the urge to send personal messages (including emails) from work devices
2. Where personal messages are sent from personal devices, avoid using work WiFi and use your mobile data instead
3. Send messages outside of work time, such as during lunchtime
4. If you cannot resist the urge to look at your phone, then turn it off.
Advice for Employers
It is important that employers have procedures in place to protect themselves. One of the reasons the Mr Barbulescu lost is down to the fact his employer had a policy in place. Have you got the following in place:
1. Social media policy
3. Email and internet usage policy
4. Staff Handbook?
Wrigley Claydon has a dynamic Employment department and can assist you in drafting and advising on these policies. If you want to have a chat with a specialist Oldham employment law solicitor, give John Porter a call on 0161 785 3529 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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