1. Introduction

The provisions of this Policy apply to all members of staff, whether or not they have access to, or sole use of, a telephone or email/the Internet on a computer. These facilities are provided for Company business and it is recognised that the Company should provide guidance to employees about the appropriate use of telephones and email/Internet access in order to safeguard the interests of both members of staff and the Company. Although access to such facilities does not form part of the benefits package of a member of staff, it is recognised that there are occasions when employees might legitimately make private use of their Company telephone to send or receive calls, use a computer to send and receive personal email and use their Internet access for private use. This Policy is intended to make clear what constitutes legitimate use in order that employees can use these facilities to their full potential on Company business and so that there is clarity about what does and does not constitute unacceptable use. The Policy is not intended to place employees under unjustifiable scrutiny, but to give them a high measure of security and confidence about their use of email, telephones and the Internet.

It should be noted that this Policy governs the use of telephones and email/Internet access provided on Company computers to employees in order to allow them to undertake their Company employment. The fact that personal use of these facilities is in certain circumstances legitimate does not mean that such use is a formal benefit, nor does it give employees a right to such access. A number of jobs in the Company do not require access to these facilities and hence they are not provided. The sections of the Policy regarding misconduct and misuse should be read in conjunction with the appropriate staff disciplinary procedure. This Policy has also been designed to safeguard the legal rights of members of staff under the terms of both the Data Protection Act and the Human Rights Act.

2. Telephones

It is recognised that there will be occasions when employees need to make short, personal telephone calls on Company telephones, both fixed lines and mobiles, in order to deal with occasional and urgent domestic crises. (It should be emphasised that calls to mobile telephone numbers are particularly expensive and that these should be kept to an absolute minimum). Other personal calls should be made using public payphone facilities located outside of Company buildings or by use of personal mobile telephones. Where possible, these nonurgent calls should be made during scheduled breaks or outside of the normal working day when they do not interfere with work requirements. Equally, it is legitimate to receive personal calls about domestic crises and arrangements, and occasional, short, non-urgent calls can be received providing they do not interfere adversely with work requirements. The use of Company telephones for either private or Company purposes, which are in any way excessive (i.e. outside of the limits defined above), defamatory, obscene or otherwise inappropriate, will be treated as misconduct under the appropriate disciplinary procedure. In serious cases this could be regarded as gross misconduct and will lead to dismissal. Where the Company has grounds to suspect possible misuse of its telephones, it reserves the right to monitor the destination and length of out-going calls and the source and length of in-coming calls. This would not normally involve the surveillance of calls but in certain rare circumstances, where there are reasonable grounds to suspect serious misconduct, the Company reserves the right to record calls.

3. Email

As with telephones it is recognised that employees can use email for personal means in certain circumstances. Email should be treated like any other form of written communication and, as such, what is normally regarded as unacceptable in a letter or memorandum is equally unacceptable in an email communication. It is legitimate for employees to make use of email outside of the normal working day for personal reasons to send messages that are in no sense obscene or defamatory or otherwise inappropriate. Employees should be careful that before they open any attachment to a personal email they receive, they are confident that the content is in no sense obscene or defamatory. Equally, if an employee receives an obscene or defamatory email, whether unwittingly or otherwise and from whatever source, s/he should not intentionally forward the email to any other address. The use of email for either personal or Company purposes to send or forward messages or attachments which are in any way defamatory, obscene or otherwise inappropriate will be treated as misconduct under the appropriate disciplinary procedure. In serious cases this could be regarded as gross misconduct and will lead to dismissal. Where the Company has reasonable grounds to suspect misuse of email in either scale of use, content or nature of messages, it reserves the right to monitor the destination, source and content of email to and from a particular address. The Company also reserves the right to access an employee’s email account in her/his unexpected or prolonged absence (e.g. due to sickness) in order to allow it to continue to undertake the employee’s normal role.

4. Use of the Internet

The primary reason for the provision of Internet access is for the easy retrieval of information for research purposes in order to enhance the ability of its staff to undertake their Company role. However, as with email it is legitimate for employees to make use of the Internet in its various forms outside of normal working hours for personal purposes as long as it is not used to view or distribute improper material such as text messages or images which are derogatory, defamatory or obscene. It is recognised that there can be occasions where it is sensible for the employee to make occasional use of the Internet for personal reasons such as a private transaction, rather than having to spend considerably more time out of the office. Examples of this might include a bank transaction. As long as such personal use is confined to non-working hours, then it is permissible. Unauthorised use of the Internet will be treated as misconduct under the appropriate disciplinary procedure. In serious cases it could be treated as gross misconduct and could lead to dismissal. The Company reserves the right to monitor the use of the Internet from particular Personal Computers or accounts where it suspects misuse of the facility.