Internet and email policy for employees

What should an email and internet use policy include ?

  • clear standards for conduct and performance.
  • provide examples of appropriate and inappropriate use of electronic communications
  • types of internet sites which should not be visited (including pornographic or obscene sites and sites which might be illegal for other reasons as well as sites which might be a source of viruses, such as webmail services);
  • a clear policy on blogging or message rooms making it clear that there may be legal implications of commenting or issues likely to bring the employer into disrepute;
  • clear rules and procedures for downloading software, generally this should not take place ¬†without the approval of the IT department
  • a prohibition on distributing chain e-mails or jokes
  • a warning regarding forwarding of copyright information obtained from the internet;
  • advice on house e-mail style; and
  • a reminder that the content of e-mails must not breach equal opportunities, anti-harassment policies or be defamatory.
  • Make it clear that inappropriate use of email and the internet and electronic communications policy generally will be dealt with under the disciplinary procedure.
  • Provide a warning that e-mails can be used as evidence in court proceedings.
  • Provide a warning that e-mails can be forwarded easily and should not be treated as confidential (any confidential information should be encrypted).
  • State that the employer’s standard disclaimer must be used at all times.
  • State rules for private use of office equipment when used away from the workplace or the employee’s home.
  • Provide a warning that attachments to e-mail should be sent to the IT department for opening if from an unknown source.
  • Provide guidance on passwords, any specific security guidelines and advice on excessive processing.
  • State whether personal use of office computers is permitted and if so, what level and at what times personal use is acceptable.
  • State the employer’s retention and deletion policy (and deal with any overlap with hard copy policy).
  • cover the use of office telephones, mobile telephones, laptops, blackberries and similar devices and PDAs, and include guidance on blogging, social networking sites and “twitter”.

The policy should also be communicated clearly by:

  • Being supplied to employees at the beginning of their employment.
  • Regular reminders and updates on the policy.
  • Insisting that employees read the policy and confirm this and accept the term of the policy formally.

It is imperative that the policy is applied consistently and fairly to avoid claims for unfair dismissal and discrimination.

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