Employers could log on to e-mail of absent staff

The Government has extended its consultation period on laws which would allow companies to monitor e-mails and telephone calls coming into the office for certain staff while they are off sick or on holiday.

Criticism about the length of the consultation period and legal technicalities within the regulations under the Act prompted the decision. The consultation, which originally ran until 25 August, will now finish on next week and the regulations will come into force on 24 October.

The rules come under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, which governs police surveillance, but also has implications for business. Draft guidelines would allow companies to intercept absent employees’ e-mails and telephone calls to check for hackers, keep tabs on business transactions and ensure employees comply with regulations.

The company would not have to ask for consent from the caller or the receiver as long as it told employees it had the power to intercept communications should conditions outlined in the regulations arise.

The CBI has called for further clarification of when the rules apply and is concerned that the regulations overlap with the Human Rights Act, which comes into force on 2 October.

Michael Gooddie, HR director of GNER, said, “If you are going to hold companies responsible for their employees’ actions they must be allowed to monitor them.

“It is crucial that staff think carefully before they write e-mails.”

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