Big Brother Boss

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Sending personal messages from work computers could lead to dismissal after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rules that a firm in Romania was within its rights to read an employee's messages.

Office work

Right To Private Life?

Mr Bogdan Barbulescu's appeal to the ECHR came after his employer had read a series of personal messages sent from a Yahoo Messenger account to his fiancée and brother - for which they subsequently fired him.

The main point of contention was that the messages had been from an account he had created for professional purposes only.

Blanket Ban

Mr Barbulescu's former employer did have a company-wide policy in place which effectively acted as a blanket ban on private messages being sent during work hours, which he was aware of before the messages were sent.

The ruling by the ECHR stated that by not following the policy set out by his employers, they did have the right the right to monitor his messages.

Despite his claim that his right to a private life had been breached, all but one of the judges agreed that the firm was not at fault for delving into the message logs, as they believed the account was solely for professional matters, and they were ensuring that Mr Barbalescu was completing his work during work hours.

Manchester based Partner specialising in Employment Law, Zee Hussain, comments:

"Rulings like this can appear at first blush to open the floodgates for a big brother type approach from the employer. However, to maximise the benefit of such decisions, employers should ensure they have clear policies in place for personal email and internet use which are clearly communicated.

If the employee then, despite being in an informed position, breaches the company policy - it puts the employer in a strong position to take robust action."

Your Privacy Policy

Ensuring that your policy of internet and personal email use is up to date with current Employment law can be difficult to keep on top of. The ever changing world of the internet is reflected in the laws that accompany it and Simpson Millar's Employment Law specialists are always on hand to let you know what your next step should be.

Zee oversees Simpson Millar's HR Oracle service – which was developed in conjunction with our clients to help address their need to access HR and legal support under ‘one-roof’, from a trusted and qualified supplier. Find out if this could be the solution you're looking for here.


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