Law guide: Employment

See how we helped Michael

"Fantastic! The legal document I used was so comprehensive and easy to complete. It is very reassuring to know my business now has this level of protection"

Michael S, London

Internet and email rules

Internet and email rules

Contents

Electronic communications policy guidelines

Overview

It is common for employers to provide Internet, fax and email facilities to their employees as they are essential to the daily communication of a business. It is necessary to regulate the way in which your employees use these facilities so as to avoid misuse and illegal activity that you may find yourself liable for as an employer.

The aim is to get guidelines as to what is and what is not acceptable. That way, as an employer, you will aim to achieve a unified approach towards Internet use, faxes and emails, which will help to maintain security levels and will assist you in taking effective disciplinary action if necessary.

Therefore it is advisable for all businesses to have a clear electronic communications policy to which all of your staff should adhere. Usually such a policy will be found inside an employee handbook.

Sample policy

The following is a sample of the type of restrictions that may appear in an electronic communications policy:

Confidentiality

  • An employee should not transmit anything in an email or fax message that they would not be comfortable writing in a public document.
  • Employees should never assume that internal messages are necessarily private and confidential, even if marked as such. In particular, Internet messages should be treated as non-confidential.

Offensive messages

  • Employees must not send offensive, demeaning or disruptive messages.
  • If an employee receives mail containing material that is offensive or inappropriate to the office environment then they must delete it immediately. Under no circumstances should such mail be forwarded either internally or externally.

Passwords

  • An employee must not allow other employees to use their password.

Viruses

  • Any files or software downloaded from the Internet or brought from home must be virus checked before use. Employees should not rely on their own PC to virus check any such programs but should refer direct to [Name of IT employee].

The Internet

  • Access to the Internet during working time should be limited to matters relating to an employee's employment. Any unauthorised use of the Internet is strictly prohibited. Unauthorised use includes connecting, posting or downloading any information unrelated to an employee's employment.

Interception of communications

  • We reserve the right to intercept any email for monitoring purposes, record keeping purposes, preventing or detecting crime, investigating or detecting the unauthorised use of our telecommunication system or ascertaining compliance with our practices or procedures.[NB employee should expressly agree this, e.g. in contract of employment.]

Breach of policy

If an employee is found to be in breach of this policy then he or she will be disciplined in accordance with the employer's disciplinary procedure and may be dismissed. In cases of serious breaches of this policy, amounting to gross misconduct, an employee may be dismissed summarily. For further information on disciplinary procedures, see Disciplinary procedure.