Expert advice on the business of running a garment decoration company

THIS MONTH’S TOP BUSINESS STORIES

Q&A

”I read in the papers about a recent court case where it was ruled okay that a boss had accessed their employee’s private messages that were sent during work – does this mean I can now do the same? ”

The case, Barbulescu v Romania, as the name suggests, originated in Romania so the first thing that we must recognise is that some of the detail may not necessarily be applied in the UK. However, the facts as disclosed in the case are important.

Mr Barbulescu used a business Yahoo Messenger account to communicate with his fiancée and his brother about personal matters, including details about his sex life and health. The employer monitored the account and called Mr Barbulescu to task because it was forbidden to use its systems for personal use. Initially, Mr Barbulescu said he had only used the account for professional purposes but was then presented with a 45-page transcript of his personal messages. The employer dismissed Mr Barbulescu and he accused them of violating the Romanian Criminal Code in respect of the alleged violations concerning his personal correspondence.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) was asked to determine if Mr Barbulescu’s rights under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights has been breached. Article 8 provides for a right to respect for private and family life, the home and correspondence. The ECHR found that these rights had not been violated and it was not unreasonable for the employer to seek to check on Mr Barbulescu’s work and make sure that he was doing what he was being paid to do. The Yahoo Messenger was meant for work purposes only and the employer had no warning that it would be looking at personal material when looking at the account.

This case shows that it must be recognised that employers are able to verify that employees are completing professional tasks during work hours. It is not wholesale permission to look at all data. If personal use of systems is allowed, then the employer will have to be careful about looking at the content of emails when they are marked as such. However, the employer will want personal usage to be personal and such that it can look at the number of emails and so on without a problem.

The learning point is for employees. Why oh why would you want to discuss intimate details of your personal life on a work system which is meant only for professional use?

Martin Williams is head of employment at Mayo Wynne Baxter, which provides comprehensive and personal service to a broad spectrum of local, national and international clients.
www.mayowynnebaxter.co.uk

Q&A

”I’m about to move into my first proper business premises. What precautions should I be taking against burglary?”

The case, Barbulescu v Romania, as the name suggests, originated in Romania so the first thing that we must recognise is that some of the detail may not necessarily be applied in the UK. However, the facts as disclosed in the case are important.

Mr Barbulescu used a business Yahoo Messenger account to communicate with his fiancée and his brother about personal matters, including details about his sex life and health. The employer monitored the account and called Mr Barbulescu to task because it was forbidden to use its systems for personal use. Initially, Mr Barbulescu said he had only used the account for professional purposes but was then presented with a 45-page transcript of his personal messages. The employer dismissed Mr Barbulescu and he accused them of violating the Romanian Criminal Code in respect of the alleged violations concerning his personal correspondence.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) was asked to determine if Mr Barbulescu’s rights under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights has been breached. Article 8 provides for a right to respect for private and family life, the home and correspondence. The ECHR found that these rights had not been violated and it was not unreasonable for the employer to seek to check on Mr Barbulescu’s work and make sure that he was doing what he was being paid to do. The Yahoo Messenger was meant for work purposes only and the employer had no warning that it would be looking at personal material when looking at the account.

This case shows that it must be recognised that employers are able to verify that employees are completing professional tasks during work hours. It is not wholesale permission to look at all data. If personal use of systems is allowed, then the employer will have to be careful about looking at the content of emails when they are marked as such. However, the employer will want personal usage to be personal and such that it can look at the number of emails and so on without a problem.

The learning point is for employees. Why oh why would you want to discuss intimate details of your personal life on a work system which is meant only for professional use?

Samantha Dickinson is an associate solicitor in the employment department at Mayo Wynne Baxter. Mayo Wynne Baxter provides a comprehensive and personal service to a broad spectrum of local, national and international clients.
www.mayowynnebaxter.co.uk

If you have a business question for any of our experts, email it to: rachael@imagesmagazine.com