I own a company that communicates daily with customers through a customer support department. Our employees’ job is to answer customer inquiries using work email addresses separately created for each employee. I suspect that one of the employees uses his work email to communicate with his private contacts during working hours. In our company, employees are only authorized to use the Internet, work devices, and email addresses for work purposes. As the employer, am I allowed to check the content of my employee’s work email?
You can monitor an employee’s communication via their work email only if you comply with the conditions set out by the Labour Code. Otherwise, you will be violating the employee’s right to privacy.
According to Section 13(4) of the Labour Code, the employer may check on an employee if both of the following conditions are met:
- there are serious reasons for monitoring due to the special nature of the employer’s activities; and
- the employee was informed in advance about the possibility of being monitored by the employer.
Neither “serious reasons” nor “special nature of the employer’s activities” are defined in the Labour Code, so we recommend that you define the specific reasons as to why it is necessary to monitor emails in your Code of Conduct. In your case, one thing you could do is assess how many customer inquiries the employee handled in a week compared to other employees. If the number of handled inquiries was lower than some predefined limit, you could inquire as to why the employee had failed to do his job.
You can inform employees about checking their emails by sending them an email with a notification that their work email communication will be inspected. However, if you stipulate that employee communication may be subject to monitoring in your Code of Conduct, employees will be considered to be informed about the monitoring by having read the Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct must provide more details on the scope, possible methods, and usual duration of such monitoring. The Code of Conduct is a binding document that all employees must become acquainted with when they start working for their employer, i.e., they are duly informed about possibly being subject to monitoring. If you intend to pass a new Code of Conduct or amend the existing one, it is necessary to verifiably acquaint all existing employees with this fact (such as by means of a mass email message).
When drafting a Code of Conduct, we advise you consult a human resources expert or a lawyer so that you (as the employer) can protect your legitimate interests, comply with the law, and preserve your employees’ right to privacy.