Companies warned to develop e-mail tactics

Companies
are being urged this week to implement e-mail policies, following a significant
tribunal case in which a company’s decision to sack staff for e-mail abuse was
upheld.

Holset
Engineering successfully defended its dismissal of two employees who were found
to have sent smutty e-mails to 40 other staff. The tribunal threw out unfair
dismissal, under October’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.

The company
argued that staff were sent on training courses about e-mail harassment and had
an e-mail policy in place which stated that only messages “your mother would
like to see” should be sent.

Catherine
Prest, a solicitor at lawyer Hammond Suddards Edge, which represented Holset
Engineering, said, “I would assume that a lot of companies are currently
reviewing their disciplinary procedure to protect themselves.”

The CBI is
calling for a national code of conduct to be drawn up on the use of e-mails in
the workplace.

Last week,
communications organisation Cable & Wireless dismissed six staff for
similar

reasons. A
Cable & Wireless spokesman said: “We have a clear policy, which is
communicated to all employees as part of their recruitment literature.”

Mike
Emmott, adviser on employee relations to the CIPD, said: “Employers must not
duck the issue as it will leave them wide open to the repercussions.” 

The
tribunal decision flies in the face of new data protection rules, as yet
untested in the courts, which prevent employers from opening staff
communications unless they are suspected of a criminal act.

A spokesman
for law firm Simon Halberstam commented: “E-mail and the internet have exploded
quickly on the employment scene and, because of this, there are a lack of
strategies in the workplace.

“Employers
should implement one so both parties know where they stand.”

By Paul
Nelson

 

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