Aims of the policy
The principal aim of the policy is to ensure that employees are aware of the employer's rules governing the use of e-mail and the internet at work.
Who is it for?
The policy is usually aimed at employees, although it can be extended to cover contractors, agency workers and other individuals who have access to its e-mail and internet systems to ensure they are also aware of their rights and obligations when using the system.
The policy should:
- Inform employees of when, how and for what purposes they are allowed to use the employer's e-mail system. For example, are employees only allowed to use it for business purposes or is reasonable personal use also allowed? If the e-mail system is stated to be for business purposes only, then employers should ensure that this happens in practice. If they do not do this, and subsequently seek to dismiss an employee for personal use of the system, any such dismissal is likely to be unfair.
If rumours of a Treasury proposal to treat personal use of e-mail/internet access as a taxable benefit are to be believed, this will become increasingly important. See comments below regarding restrictions on monitoring.
- Make it clear that sending offensive, defamatory, discriminatory or otherwise inappropriate e-mails will not be tolerated. The policy should make it clear that such behaviour would amount to misconduct and may result in dismissal.
- Ensure that employees are aware of the problems that may arise if they misuse the e-mail system. They should be informed that the laws governing disclosure, defamation, breach of copyright, licensing restrictions etc apply as much to e-mails as to other written communications.
- Ensure that employees are aware of the extent to which e-mails should be in a certain format, for example, with a disclaimer statement and with certain employer information included.
- Remind staff that the e-mail is not a substitute for conversation and that it may create disclosable documents in any litigation.
- Ensure employees are aware of who can use the internet and when, how and for what purposes. The policy should make it clear whether employees are allowed to use the internet for personal and business use or just for business use.
- Set out any restrictions on accessin