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Most UK employers tolerate some personal email, internet and telephone use at work.  However, in a recent high profile case, an employer dismissed an employee for personal internet use at work; accessed intimate messages that the employee had sent to his fiancée using his Yahoo Messenger account; printed these messages and used them in disciplinary proceedings and then later at Court.

Why is writing personal emails/posts taken that seriously?

What you write in emails or on the internet could cause you to lose your job, or for you and your employer to be fined, sued or even imprisoned.

Old/deleted messages

Even deleted emails and internet posts that were sent a long time ago can be used against you or your employer, in disciplinary meetings, investigations or legal proceedings.

Forwarding content

Forwarding an email or sharing other content can be seen as just as serious as writing the original, and could lead you to be sued – even if you only share it with one other person.

Offensive and inappropriate content

Emails or content posted online that could be considered to be discriminatory, obscene, racists, sexist or hurtful can get you into trouble.  Forwarding inappropriate emails or accessing inappropriate websites at work may not just be treated as gross misconduct; it could also be a criminal offence.

Referring to work

Referring to work, work related matters or other people at work in emails and posts – even if done in your own time – could mean that you and your employer get into trouble.

Confidential information

Avoid sending confidential information via email.  If you have to, make sure that it is always clearly marked as ‘confidential.’ 

Legally binding

Don’t enter into a contract by mistake.  Sometimes all it can take is a simple exchange of emails to be bound into a contract.  If you are at all unsure about this, make it clear that you do not intend for your emails to be binding.

Taking advantage

Finally, don’t take advantage of use of email or internet access at work.  Excessive or unproductive usage is almost certainly not going to be permitted by your employer and it could lead to you being sacked.

Advice about dismissal and disciplinary action

If you have any dismissal or disciplinary related questions, call our team of specialist employment lawyers using the contact details below.