Legal Article - Employment Law

Employer Monitoring of Workplace Communication Tools

Monitoring of employees’ use of the company’s telecommunications system, including e-mail and the internet, is now illegal under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and the Telecommunications (Lawful Business Practice) (Interception of Communications) Regulations 2000 except in certain specified circumstances.

The Regulations give lawful authority to the employer to intercept internal telephone calls and e-mails as follows:

• to establish the existence of facts relevant to the business e.g. to resolve a contractual dispute done over the telephone

• if it is done for the purpose of monitoring or recording for compliance purposes

• to demonstrate standards to be achieved by persons using the system e.g. for quality control and staff training purposes

• if it is in the interests of national security or for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime

• if it is done to investigate or detect unauthorised use

• to monitor for operational purposes such as protecting against viruses and making routine interceptions such as forwarding e-mails to correct destinations

• if it is in connection with monitoring certain confidential telephone counseling service e.g. businesses own welfare helplines

• to gain access to routine business communications to check voice mail systems when staff are on holiday or sick leave.

Lawful authority is conditional on the employer having made all reasonable efforts to inform all users of their own systems that interception might take place even though express consent is not required.

Employers may be liable under the principle of vicarious liability for any harassment or defamation of other people through the e-mail so monitoring is an important legal right.

Published: 27 May 2011

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