We receive a lot of enquiries about the use of the Internet and e-mail. Listed below are the more common misperceptions in a question and answer format.. Remember, ACS expressly forbids the inappropriate use of electronic systems and employees who fail to comply will be subject to disciplinary procedures which may, in serious cases, lead to dismissal.
Q) My employer doesn’t have the right to read my private e-mails.
A) Employers generally have the right to read ALL e-mails sent or received on their systems. Unless it is specifically stated in your contract of employment/staff handbook that you have the right to e-mail privacy, you can assume your employer has the right to read everything.
Q) I’m allowed to send and receive private e-mails and surf the net at work.?
A) You can only do this with your employers consent. Some employers specifically forbid the use of their email systems to send or receive private e-mails and forbit internet access for anything other than work related matters. Check you contract of employment/staff handbook for the rules.
Q) My employer lets me send private e-mails and surf the net so I can do this as often as I like.
A) Most good employers will let you make “reasonable” use of their e-mail and internet systems but this doesn’t mean unlimited use and the employer will define what is “reasonable.”
Q) If I delete a private e-mail my employer can’t read it neither can they find out which websites I have visited.
A) All employers have the technical means of recovering deleted e-mails and of tracking which internet sites you have visited. It may not be on your screen but it exists in the system: just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean your employer can’t get at it.
Q) It’s not a disciplinary offence to pass on jokes via the e-mail or to pass on amusing internet sites to my colleagues.
A) It can well be a serious disciplinary offence; it will depend on the nature of the joke and the nature of the web site. You may think it funny but if the recipient, your employer or anybody who reads the e-mail or sees the site is offended, you could be faced with dismissal. Employers have a legal duty to protect their staff from harassment of any sort including sexual or racial harassment. Passing on offensive jokes or web sites, making sexually explicit comments or insinuations about colleagues or non colleagues can all be classed as harassment and hence gross misconduct.
Q) My employer lets me surf the web so it’s my business what sites I visit.
A) You may be allowed to surf but it’s still your employers system and they have the power to control what sites can and cannot be accessed. Visiting sites containing sexually explicit material or material that your employer or any other members of staff deem offensive can result in your dismissal. In extreme cases it could result in your prosecution.
Q) I should be very careful about how I use e-mail or internet facilities at work
A) Used properly you should have no problems but more and more employers including ACS, are now taking a stricter line on e-mail and internet abuse …take care! If you are unsure ASK