Don’t get personal at work


The employee had breached the company’s rules by sending messages on work time.

Author: Roxanne Bradley
Reading time: 2 minutes

This article is 6 years old.

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We recently heard the decision from the European Court of Human Rights which ruled that employers can justify reading workers private online messages.

The Judge ruled that employers have the right to check that employees were completing their work and that the employee had breached the company’s rules by sending messages on work time.

The case itself concerned an employee using Yahoo messenger to speak with his family and professional contacts whilst he was at work.

The employee was dismissed, the company did have policies in place which stated it was forbidden to use computers and other equipment for personal purposes.

The employee was present with a 45 page transcript of his messages which were personal in nature. The employee claimed the company had breached his right to privacy under the European Convention of Human Rights.  

The court ruled that it was reasonable for an employer to check employees were carrying out the tasks for which they were being paid and that checking their employees Yahoo messages was simply them doing that. Not an invasion of the individual’s privacy. However, the Court did state the ruling did not give employers the power for unregulated snooping on private messages and that a set of policies should be in place stating what communications can be accessed and for what reasons.

Roxanne Bradley

Legal Advisor

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