Welcome to part 3 of “What to include in an Employee Handbook”. In this addition to the series, we will take a closer look at staff behaviour; particularly email use and the ways in which an employee handbook can help to implement rules surrounding how to monitor this use.

Email Monitoring and Use

Use of the email by staff of the Business is permitted and encouraged where such use supports the goals and objectives of the Business. However, email can become a distraction, which can lead to staff complacency and overall diminished morale and productivity.

The employee handbook should aim to ensure that all staff:

  • comply with all applicable legislation;
  • use email in an acceptable and appropriate manner;
  • include in all external emails any branding, signature, footer, disclaimer and/or privacy statement required by the Business from time to time; and
  • do not create any unnecessary risks to the Business through any misuse of emails.

What kind of conduct should be prohibited?

Misuse of email can have a negative impact upon productivity and the reputation of the Business. This is why certain conduct, namely the following, ought to be prohibited in the employee handbook:

  • using the Business email to set up personal businesses or otherwise for personal gain;
  • forwarding confidential Business messages to external locations;
  • distributing, disseminating or storing images, text or materials that might be considered indecent, pornographic, in bad taste, obscene or illegal;
  • distributing, disseminating or storing images, text or materials that might be considered discriminatory, defamatory, offensive, abusive, annoying, tormenting, threatening, to be a personal attack, sexist or racist, or might be considered to be harassment;
  • accessing copyrighted information in a manner that violates the copyright;
  • hacking into the Business’s or another organisation’s email or unauthorised use of a password/mailbox;
  • emailing unsolicited personal views on social, political, religious or other non-business related matters;
  • transmitting unsolicited commercial or advertising material;
  • undertaking deliberate activities that waste staff effort or network resources;
  • burdening the Business email systems in a manner that, in the reasonable opinion of the Business, causes unnecessary congestion;
  • sending spam, chain emails, or materials connected to pyramid selling schemes; and
  • introducing any form of computer virus or malware into the corporate network.

The purpose of Email at work

Work Email is provided for business purposes only. Make sure your employee handbook makes this crystal clear. In addition, explain that the Business owns the intellectual property of emails and any information contained within emails on the Business system.

This will make it easier to exercise your right as the business owner to examine any Business systems and inspect any information recorded in those systems, such as discretionarily reviewing emails, without needing to notify the employees. If you wish to use monitoring software in order to check the use and content of emails, as well as the right to block emails, which are prohibited under the employee handbook, include a clause to this effect. It is a good idea to also clarify that such monitoring or blocking is for legitimate purposes only.

Explain how any staff member found to have breached this policy would face disciplinary action ranging from a verbal warning to dismissal, and that the actual penalty applied may depend on factors such as the seriousness of the breach and the staff member’s disciplinary record.

Conclusion

Email monitoring is important for a number of reasons. The unfortunate truth is that employees sometimes lose focus and start misusing their email and ultimately wasting business resources. This can impact a business’ bottom line, which is why it is important that these policies be reinforced in the employment contracts. If you need assistance or would like to speak to a lawyer about drafting the Email Use policy within the Employee Handbook, contact LegalVision on 1300 544 755.

Lachlan McKnight

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