Clarkslegal LLP - Solicitors in Reading and London

Legal Updates

1/3 of employees misuse company email

21 April 2011 #Employment

According to a survey completed by almost a third (32%) of respondents felt that they had used their company email for inappropriate activities.

The survey was sent to 1,283 employees in order to investigate what they use their work email for.

The results of the survey have been published on website Your Story.

The 32% who admitted to using email inappropriately were then asked to explain what they deemed to be their inappropriate usage. According to the results:

  • More than two fifths ( 41%), of respondents admitted sending ‘funny images` to colleagues,
  • Almost half (48%) said they had used it to gossip with their co-workers,
  • 17% said they had used it to plan social arrangements
  • One in 10 (11%) had flirted with co-workers in some way
  • One respondent admitted to have sent pictures of themselves to another employee.

It is clear from these figures that a large number of employees are misusing company email accounts. Misuse could lead to embarrassing situations for employers (for which they may be legally liable) and has the potential to cause damage to a businesses` reputation. So how can businesses protect themselves?

The first step is to have a clear and well communicated policy in place, setting out what is, and is not, considered acceptable and the consequences of the policy being ignored.

The second step is email monitoring. This needs to be done correctly in order to avoid the risk of claims against the business. You should carry out a risk assessment prior to commencing email monitoring in order to establish the least intrusive way to achieve your aim of ensuring the email policy is complied with. A good way of monitoring emails is to run regular "keyword" reports which pick up emails with inappropriate words in the title or content. Also generally monitoring email volume can be a good indicator of when someone is using it excessively for personal use.

You should also ensure that employees are aware of the extent to which they are monitoring their use of the e-mail system. Consider having a clause in your contract of employment specifically consenting to monitoring.

The third step is enforcing the policy if a breach is found. In most cases, email misuse will constitute misconduct and, depending upon its severity, it may justify dismissal. It is important to ensure that a fair disciplinary procedure is followed, as with any other dismissal.

Clarkslegal, specialist Employment lawyers in London, Reading and throughout the Thames Valley.
For further information about this or any other Employment matter please contact Clarkslegal's employment team by email at by telephone 020 7539 8000 (London office), 0118 958 5321 (Reading office) or by completing the form on this page.
This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

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