‘I spy…’ how far can employers go when it comes to monitoring employee communications?

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‘I spy…’ how far can employers go when it comes to monitoring employee communications?

Last week The European Court of Human Rights’ (“ECtHR”) judgment in the case of Bărbulescu v Romania, where a Romanian engineer was fired for sending messages to his fianceé on his private Yahoo chats, confirmed that the monitoring of an employee’s personal communications was not a breach of his human rights (in particular Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence)).


Despite this case receiving much media coverage and providing further clarity as to when an employer can monitor an employees’ personal communications, it does not mean an employer can monitor anything and everything which is private. The ruling will mean that companies across the UK will have to be clear on when employees can send personal emails from their work accounts.

It was important that in this case the employee had been using a Yahoo account which had been set up specifically for work purposes, during working hours and where such usage was contrary to his employer’s policies.

This case confirms that given the right to privacy is not absolute, it is important employers have well drafted policies in place, which set out what information they may collect and how. Not only should companies review their electronic communications policies but also social media and the additional complexities this creates where employees may be using personal equipment outside of work hours.

Author: Sarah Brockhurst, Solicitor, Employment

Rebecca Thornley-Gibson, Partner, Employment & Head of Travel, asb lawFor more information on employment law or related enquiries, contact Rebecca Thornley-Gibson, Partner.

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Published: 19 Jan 2016

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