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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 44331
Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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is it legal to read employee emails

Customer Question

is it legal to read employee emails
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 3 years ago.
Hello, my name is Ben and it is my pleasure to be able to assist with your question today. Please explain your situation in a bit more detail
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi Ben,


I just log in to my work email and i have realised that one of the requests sent to me by customer was already put on to the relevent folder.

At the same time another email from our accountancy department was showing read . The only answer is that our MD/HQ office is looking in to my emails which i do not think is legal without any warning

Please advise!




Expert:  Ben Jones replied 3 years ago.
Is there a policy in relation to email monitoring in the workplace?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

not that im aware

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 3 years ago.
Whilst it is possible for employers to monitor employee communications such as emails and phone calls, there must be a clear policy in place which has been communicated to the affected employees in advance of any monitoring taking place.

There are various reasons why an employer may wish to monitor its employees in the workplace. When there is a genuine reason for monitoring employees, such as security, training, legal obligations, etc the employer would normally be justified in monitoring, as long as it is conducted in a reasonable manner and the employees were aware of it.

However, the use of monitoring equipment in the workplace will be covered by the Data Protection Act 1998 (“DPA”) as it would involve the processing of personal data. As such, the employer must adhere to a number of principles set out in the DPA, which include:
• obtaining the data fairly and lawfully;
• informing employees of the types of monitoring that are being used;
• using the data obtained from monitoring only for a specific purpose;
• limiting the data to adequate and relevant data; and
• not holding the data for longer than necessary.

An employee may only try and prevent the monitoring from taking place if it breaches any of the DPA principles or if it is carried out in a way that is causing or is likely to cause substantial damage and distress to them or any other person.

Finally, there is the issue of human rights. Under human rights legislation every person has the right to private life so if there is evidence that an employer has invaded that privacy the employee could take action against their employer.

If no warning has been given to you that any type of monitoring is going to be taking place you are able to complain to the employer about this, either informally or through the formal grievance procedure.

Legal action is not something I would advise as this is not a very serious breach that has resulted in damages or distress.

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