Warning over Internet and e-mail policies

Employers have been warned to review their Internet and e-mail policies to
take account of new laws due to come in this month.

The main changes will come in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act on
which consultation closed in mid-September, and the Human Rights Act, which
will give employees the right to privacy.

The RIP Act will make it an offence to intercept employee calls without
lawful authority, with certain exemptions for business communications. These
include where employers need to ascertain compliance with practices and
procedures and detect unauthorised use of telecoms systems. Even in these
cases, employers will be required to make "reasonable efforts" to
warn employees of possible interceptions.

Employers and their advisers are concerned about gaps in the proposals,
including the definition of business communications and whether it will be
enough to put a standard paragraph on outgoing e-mails informing recipients
that replies may be monitored.

"One has to hope when the regulations are finalised that they receive
proper scrutiny and are clearly drafted so that employers are not left high and
dry," said Nicholas Robertson, employment partner at Rowe and Maw.

Also due is a draft code of practice from the Data Protection Registrar
advising how to use the information gleaned from monitoring.

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