The monitoring of employees' email accounts (and telephone calls) is regulated under the Telecommunications (Lawful Business Practice) (Interception of Communications) Regulations (2000). These allow businesses to intercept emails, telephone calls and fax's without an employees' consent for the following purposes:
- recording evidence of transactions;
- ensuring regulatory compliance;
- detecting crime or unauthorised uses;
- ensuring the effective operation of their telecommunications systems.
Although employees' consent is not required, they must be informed if communications are to be intercepted or monitored. To ensure that communications and computer systems are not abused it is sensible to have a robust policy on communications systems which include details as to the purposes and circumstances under which the organisation may monitor such communications. Such a policy will also assist in circumstances where, for example, an employee resigns on the grounds that his or her emails have been monitored and subsequently claims constructive dismissal on the basis that the monitoring made his or her job intolerable. In such circumstances, having a robust and justifiable policy in place may prevent a tribunal for considering its judgement with reference to the Human Rights Act 1998.