1) Employees should avoid using work email for communications on personal issues unless they are happy for their employer to read them.
2) Anything sent via work email might not remain private in the long run.
3) Employees should act as professionally on work email as they would in a face to face workplace meeting.
4) Do they understand that if their conduct turns a private issue into a workplace one then the employer may be entitled to read their emails?
Why is this relevant? Well, in the recent case of Garamukanwa v Solent NHS Trust last year, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) upheld that Article 8 (Right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights was not engaged and that Solent had a right to review Mr Garamukanwa’s private email.
The EAT found that the aspects of private life capable of falling within the scope of Article 9 can include emails sent at work. Only, however, where a reasonable expectation of privacy is held.
The EAT stated that there was no such reasonable expectation of privacy and that the communications had been brought into the workplace by Mr Garamukanwa, had been sent to work email addresses and had given rise to work-related issues.
As an employer, what does this mean?
You may be entitled to read the email correspondence of an employee if you think there is a workplace issue. Does this mean you can happily trawl through your employees’ emails in the hope of finding something? It’s not clear either way, but it would be wise to ensure you have a policy in place that your employees are aware of and that you do not overstep authority potentially breaching Article 8. If in doubt, call us at mpm legal and we will help clarify.