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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 50183
Experience:  Qualified Solicitor
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My manager and his deputy have obtained access to my emails

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My manager and his deputy have obtained access to my emails without seeking my permission or informing me that they have done this. My understanding is that this is illegal unless you suspect an employee of criminal activity. Can you please advise on this?
Hello, my name is***** am a qualified solicitor and it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. Is there a policy at work dealing with such access?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Not that I'm aware of.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
My understanding is that if a manager wants to obtain email access without an employee's permission they have to seek approval first from our HR Team. The deputy in my team recently did this and permission was declined by HR but they subsequently found out that he had somehow obtained the access anyway. My manager also didn't obtain permission from HR.
How long have you worked there for and what have they used this access for - did anything come out of it?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I've worked for the company for 3 years. I've not been informed of why they've obtained this access or what they're using it for.
And how did you find this out?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Another member of the team became aware that our manager was forwarding emails from her email account to his own email address. She reported this to HR who then found out that the Deputy had also obtained access to her emails, mine and one other person's without permission.
It is a common occurrence in the workplace for employers to monitor the email and internet use of their employees. However, as electronic forms of workplace surveillance involve the processing of personal data, they are activities that will be regulated by the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). In addition, the employer would need to adhere to the duty to preserve the mutual trust and confidence, a term which is implied into every employment contract.
The DPA lists a number of principles which must be adhered to when personal data is being processed. These 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.
The Information Commissioner's Office has also published Guidance that employer should adhere to. It states that the monitoring must be proportional to the needs for which it is done and should not go beyond what is reasonably necessary. Ideally there should be a policy in place to deal with this and outline exactly what the employer can and can't do in these circumstances.
As long as the rules are clear, the employee knew that monitoring was taking place and the information gathered as part of the monitoring is used for the purposes for which it was initially obtained then it is legally for the employer to do so. If they have not followed these rules they will likely be in breach of the law.
This is your basic legal position. I have further advice for you in terms of your next steps should you decide to take the matter further, which I wish to discuss so please take a second to leave a positive rating for the service so far (by selecting 3, 4 or 5 stars) and I can continue with that and answer any further questions you may have. Don’t worry, leaving a rating will not close the question and we can continue this discussion. Thank you
Ben Jones and 2 other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Thank you. The first step is to pursue this internally by raising a formal grievance. Follow the company’s grievance policy but if the complaint is against your own manager then you may have to raise it to someone else, like their manager or HR.
If you wish to take it outside of the organisation then you could complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office although they may not necessarily get involved with an isolated incident like this so go in with relatively low expectations.
Also I would wait and see what actually happens next – what they do with this – you can still raise the grievance to complain about their initial actions but your rights will become clearer once we know what they actually intend to do and how they want to use it, if at all.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thank you for your assistance.
You are welcome, all the best