Legal Update on Email Policy

Employment: E-mail Policy Must Be Explained To Employees

The case of Goudie v Royal Bank of Scotland highlights how important it is for employers to thoroughly explain their e-mail misuse policy to employees.

The Applicant was dismissed for sending pornographic material via e-mail and brought an action for unfair dismissal on the ground that the system used by her employer to grade e-mails had not been sufficiently explained to her. The employer, Royal Bank of Scotland, appealed but was unsuccessful, as the tribunal ruled that though a company's e'mail policy was carefully thought out, if it was not explained to the employees it could still break down where it forms the basis of a claim for unfair dismissal.

The bank developed a system whereby it graded various offensive materials and provided sanctions for employees sending or receiving such materials. Further to an organisation investigation, the bank took disciplinary action against twenty three employees, including Miss Goudie, for breach of its IT security policy. Goudie was dismissed as her actions amounted to gross misconduct under the company's policy.
The Employment Appeals Tribunal ruled that the grading system (or 'matrix' as it was also known) used by the employer in determining the sanction applicable to the employee in this case, was so fundamental to the outcome of the disciplinary process that the employer should have ensured that the employee was fully aware of the matrix being used.

As appreciated across employment law, it is vital that an employee who faces disciplinary action is provided with sufficient detail of the case against him or her so as to allow them to deliver a comprehensive response to the particular allegations. Though it is not necessarily the case that an employer needs to disclose information of the basis of the e-mail policy to all employees at the time such a policy is implemented, it is deemed a good idea and perhaps good practice so as to make the employees aware of the parameters of personal e-mail use.

If you require further information contact us.

Email: enquiries@rtcoopers.com

© RT COOPERS, 2005. This Briefing Note does not provide a comprehensive or complete statement of the law relating to the issues discussed nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight general issues. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in relation to particular circumstances.

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