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Nicola-mod
Nicola-mod, Moderator
Category: Employment Law
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Experience:  Moderator
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Can my employer access my email without telling me they are

Customer Question

Can my employer access my email without telling me they are doing so?
I have never seen an email use policy and there is no reference to accessing emails in my contract.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 4 years ago.

Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is Ben and it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. Are these personal or business emails?

JACUSTOMER-94t6cnek- :

Business

JACUSTOMER-94t6cnek- :

I have never seen an email policy and one is not referred to in my contract.

JACUSTOMER-94t6cnek- :

They have now got access to the email system I use - can they read them

Ben Jones :

Apologies for the slight delay, I experienced some temporary connection issues earlier. 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.

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.

So if the employer does not have a policy about email monitoring or they have not advised you that they will monitor your email use, such monitoring could be potentially unlawful and be in breach of data protection regulations. It may also amount to a breach of trust and confidence by the employer.

You are able to consider going down the grievance route internally at first but if that does not help then a complaint to the Information Commissioner's Office may help you, culminating in potential resignation and a claim for constructive dismissal if you believe you can no longer work there as a result of that breach of trust.

Ben Jones :

I hope this has answered your query and would be grateful if you could please take a second to leave a positive rating - your question will not close and I can continue providing further advice if necessary. Thank you

Expert:  Nicola-mod replied 4 years ago.
Hello,

Just a quick reminder, there is an unrated answer waiting for you here from the Professional.

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Thank you,
Nicola