Employees’ Use of the Internet and Email at Work-Do You Need an Acceptable Usage Policy?

Having an acceptable usage policy in respect of your employees’ use of the internet and email at work is becoming a hot topic for many employers.

An acceptable usage policy is strongly recommended for the workplace

Many employees are well used to socializing with friends and family on sites like Facebook and Twitter in their everyday lives.

This may be on their smart phone, android device, ipad or tablet-you name it.

Does this activity stop when they check in to work or are have you as an employer an acceptable usage policy?

You may well have policies in the workplace covering health and safety, grievance procedures, disciplinary procedures, and so on but are you overlooking the elephant in the room?

Acceptable Usage Policy for internet and email at work

Some key considerations surrounding this area are set out below:

  1. Will your company tolerate personal emails at work or private use of the internet or decide that they simply will not be tolerated in the workplace?
  2. If personal use is permitted in a limited way have you set down ground rules and boundaries as to what is and is not acceptable?
  3. What disciplinary sanctions are provided for in the event of a breach of the policy?
  4. Do you monitor your employees’ emails and if so do you have their written consent to do so? The Data Protection Commissioner in Ireland has expressed a view that you need this consent to monitor their emails.
  5. Have you a policy in place to ensure emails from unknown sources are not opened unless you are sure of the source?
  6. Have you a policy for employees sending emails with or without the consent of senior staff to ensure your business is not contractually bound?
  7. Is your staff aware that resending or retransmitting emails received may cause a further breach of someone’s copyright or intellectual property rights?
  8. Downloading obscene material from the internet (or anywhere else) is a criminal offence-do you have procedures in place to prevent this?

These are some of the factors you need to consider when it comes to your employees’ access to the internet and email in the workplace.

We all recognise that the use of popular social media sites and personal email is commonplace in Ireland today but is your company storing up trouble by not recognising this reality and drafting a suitable usage policy for use in your workplace?

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