Can Employers monitor Employee’s personal messages

22nd January 2016
Can Employers monitor Employee’s personal messages image


Recently the European Court of Human Rights (“ECHR”) held in a Romanian case that although accessing an employee’s personal messages on a work computer and using this to justify the dismissal of that employee for breach of the employer’s rules on computer usage engaged the employee’s right to respect for a private life, family and correspondence under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, that there was no violation of Article 8 in this particular case. Despite newspaper coverage to the contrary, the case does not mean that employers have carte blanche to monitor employees’ telephone calls, texts and emails etc at work. Monitoring may be lawful but only in certain limited circumstances.

The facts of the Romanian case

The employee was an engineer who had his Yahoo messenger service communications monitored by his employer. His employer had asked him to use the service for work purposes only, but the employee had used it for personal messages to his family. When challenged about his usage of the service, the employee denied any personal use which resulted in his employer producing a 45 page transcript of communications which did show that some were of a personal nature. As a result the employer sacked the employee and the employee claimed a violation of his right to respect for his correspondence under Article 8.

The decision of the ECHR

The ECHR held that although Article 8 had been engaged, it had not been violated, and differentiated the case from previous decisions involving UK cases of Halford and Copland. In Halford and Copland the personal use of an office telephone was allowed or at the very least tolerated. In the Romanian case personal use by staff of the employer’s computers etc was strictly prohibited.

The ECHR also noted the following:-

(i) The scope of the monitoring was limited to the framework of disciplinary proceedings;

(ii) The employer’s decision to dismiss was not based on the content of the messages, but purely on the fact that the employee had used the employer’s computers for personal use;

(iii)It is not unreasonable for an employer to want to verify that its staff are completing their professional tasks during working hours;

(iv)The Yahoo messenger account was examined, but not other data and documents stored on the computer so that the employer’s monitoring was limited in scope and proportionate; and

(v) The employee had not convincingly explained why he had used the Yahoo messenger account for personal use.

Hence on balance between the employer’s and employee’s rights, it was fair for the employer to monitor the employee as it had done (and to dismiss).


Daven Naghen head of our employment team has commented as follows:-

“This case does not give employer’s carte blanche to monitor staff usage of its IT and communications systems. If an employer is going to be able to do this lawfully then the employer will need a clear and well drafted policy setting out the ground rules and will need to bring this to its staff’s attention prior to any monitoring taking place.

For example if the policy clearly states that no personal usage is allowed, or only within certain limited parameters, then the monitoring of the IT and computer systems to check compliance with the policy may be lawful provided it is limited in scope, e.g. within a disciplinary content.

The policy should clearly state under what circumstances IT and computer systems may be monitored and also the consequences for any breach of the policy.

Without such a policy the monitoring of an employee’s usage of the employer’s IT and communications systems is still likely to be a breach of Article 8.”

If you need any advice or guidance on this subject, either as an employer or as an employee, then please contact Daven Naghen on 01775 722261 or email or arrange an appointment or visit our offices at 23 New Road, Spalding, Lincolnshire, PE11 1DH.

How Banks are Cashing in on Wills image

How Banks are Cashing in on Wills

Recent headlines have reported how banks are now cashing in on Wills.

During the 1990s and early 2000s, banks offered customers low cost Wills (or sometimes even free Wills) but the small print allowed the bank to charge extortionate rates to act as Executors. It is reported that banks are expecting billions of pounds of revenue from their Will writing services and administering estates and in some cases their fees have been over £12,000 to administer an estate as they look to charge a fixed fee PLUS a percentage of the deceased’s wealth.

If you or a loved one has made a Will through a bank we would urge you to check who you have appointed as Executors and check any small print which you may have signed. If you are unsure then please speak with one of our lawyers in the Wills and Probate team who can look at your existing Will with you. It may be appropriate to make a new Will which revokes any previous Will you have made which could save your family thousands of pounds when your estate needs to be administered.

In the majority of cases, when someone has passed away we can provide the family with a quote of how much the legal fees will be so that there are no nasty surprises once the administration is complete.

Read More


Gemma Mayer LLB

"I would highly recommend Maples Solicitors, especially Gemma Mayer, for any conveyancing work. The level of support and professionalism was excellent at all times. I also felt if I needed to ask or clarify anything that it was not an issue. Buying and selling a house is stressful enough, but Gemma helped me through it step by step."

Anita Toal LLB BA

"I think you are brilliant. You can use my comments above. You are efficient, friendly and quite clearly very good at what you do. Mainly you don’t leave people hanging around too long for." "So easy to talk to her and she understood what I wanted. She put me at ease and I cant thank her enough"

Daven Naghen LLB

"Daven provided an excellent service, from attending the first interview with me to the final court appearance. He filled me full of confidence that he would defend me to which he did and come out with an excellent outcome in view of my position that I had put myself in."

Faye Blair LLB

Faye was excellent, sensitive and acted very well to the time constraints we faced. Great service and dealt with compassion at such sad times made the process less painful very professional.

Jamie Dobbs ACILEx

Over the last forty years I have cause to deal with many law firms both in a personal and professional capacity, including some ‘top’ London Companies. In all of those dealings I have never found anyone as proactive and so willing to offer help and advice as Jamie Dobbs. During the last two years Jamie guided my parents through the completion of Lasting Powers of Attorney. Helped myself with the use of the LPA and recently dealing with Probate and Estate Administration following their death.

Mike Pepper MA

Mike Pepper gave us excellent advice. He was always most helpful and accommodating giving lucid explanations every step of the way. Thank you Mike.

Claire Smith FCILEx

Claire Smith has been amazing in every way. I highly recommend her and I am so grateful for all her help. She’s professional on all levels, reliable, extremely organised and I will be recommending her to everyone. I’m very lucky to have had her representing me and I can’t thank her enough. She is an asset to Maples. Thanks so much Claire!