A recent judgement by the European Court of Human Rights has given European employers the right to monitor employee web chats and private messages sent during working hours. The ruling is binding in all countries that have ratified the European Convention on Human Rights, including the UK.
This case involved a Romanian engineer who was dismissed from employment for using a Yahoo Messenger account to communicate with his fiancée and brother as well as professional contacts.
Bogdan Barbulescu claimed that his employer had breached Article 8 of the Human Rights Act; “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence” by accessing his account. The court however found that, as the account had been created with the sole intended purpose of responding to client queries, it was “not unreasonable that an employer would want to verify that employees were completing their professional tasks during working hours.” It added that the article had not been violated, “since the employer’s monitoring was limited in scope and proportionate.”
In this particular instance Mr Barbulescu had used company owned equipment to send the messages during working hours however, the court did not elaborate whether using personal equipment such as a laptop or mobile phone would have altered the ruling.
Monitoring an employee’s day-to-day activities is standard procedure in many organisations for reasons including tracking performance, protecting confidential company information and avoiding legal liability. Monitoring for these purposes is generally considered legal as long as the employer communicates and makes visible to all employees their reasons for doing so. It is therefore imperative to have a comprehensive procedure in place clearly stating what is expected of all employees during working hours.
Backhouse Solicitors are experts in all areas of employment law. If you are an employer who would like help implementing an internet and social media policy in your organisation, contact us today for a FREE 30 minute, no obligation consultation to discuss your requirements.