New European Court Ruling – Not Green Light for Snooping

Following a decision on Tuesday from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), employers are being warned about the dangers of unregulated snooping on staff.

A Romanian engineer, Bogdan Barbulescu, claimed that his employer had breached his right to respect for private and family life after he was dismissed from work due to what his employer found in his personal messages on his computer.

However, following his appeal the ECHR concluded that there was no breach and his claim has been dismissed on the grounds that his employer had complied with dismissal proceedings, and that the engineer had been informed of company regulations. The employee in this case had had prior warning that the company could check his messages, resulting in the dismissal of his appeal.

Following the case the judges said:

“The employer acted within its disciplinary powers since, as the domestic courts found, it had accessed the Yahoo Messenger account on the assumption that the information in question had been related to professional activities and that such access had therefore been legitimate. The court sees no reason to question these findings

Eye-opener for employers

Since this high profile case employers may become somewhat suspicious of what the ruling means for them, and whether there will be any impact upon them at the workplace. Although, UK law already allows for proportionate checks on employees communications and this may now be brought to question by employees and what exactly these checks entail.

It may be time for employers to reiterate their current rules when it comes to online activity at work. This will help to reassure staff that this recent ruling will not allow employers to begin unregulated snooping, helping to maintain the trust between employers and their most valuable asset. This recent ruling will also pose as a reminder to check other current policies in place for both employers and staff.

Blurred Lines Between Work and Personal Life
Increasingly, the line between work and personal life is becoming blurred, with the introduction of flexible working hours, the working day for many no longer fits into the nine-to-five routine.

With workers also responding to work emails outside of working hours, does that mean they should be allowed to respond to personal messages during the working day?

These types of questions need to be determined by the employer and then communicated in a clear and efficient way to the employees. Reassuring your employees now that the result of the ruling will not lead to invasive surveillance of their online activity may prove beneficial.

Institute of Directors director general Simon Walker reinforces the need for employers to be wary of becoming ‘big Brother Bosses” saying:
“Employees should not be subject to Stasi-style surveillance at work.
“We would strongly urge businesses not to read an employee’s personal messages, apart from in the most exceptional circumstances.”

Setting out clear policies
One thing this case has brought to light for many employers is the importance of having appropriate and lawful employee monitoring policies. How you communicate this to your employees is also vital, it’s important to remember that these policies will not only protect you as employer, but also your employees.

For more information on how these policies can be implemented, call us today for a confidential non-obligatory conversation- 01564 739 103

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