Email Usage Policy

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As part of a broader internet usage policy, businesses should have an email policy at work that defines acceptable email usage along with social media, software access, and web browsing. This is because, while the speed, efficiency and convenience of email (and the internet in general) helps businesses stay connected and informed, being able to instantly message people and browse the web can lead to reduced productivity and even misconduct.

The importance of a business email policy

An effective email policy that helps employees understand their rights and restrictions when communicating online is good business practice. Rather than assuming employees will act responsibly, employers should clearly detail company expectations when it comes to email communication. A business email policy should outline unacceptable behaviour, and the consequences for non-compliance. It is an employer’s responsibility to ensure all employees are aware of their expectations.

As part of a broader internet usage policy, companies should have a separate business email policy that may include the following:

  • whether personal emails may be handled during business hours
  • regulations on using the company email address for personal matters
  • whether or not the sending of personal emails on company computers is allowed during rest or meal breaks
  • definitions and examples of bullying, harassment and aggressive behaviour, with the clear understanding that this behaviour will not be tolerated on email, social media or online generally
  • regulations around talking about the company over email, including clear definitions of what could be considered harmful or negative communication
  • penalties imposed on employees who do not act in good faith to the email policy

What to Include

Restricting internet usage at work can be difficult, particularly as many employees will need to access various websites and social channels as a legitimate part of their role. It is fair, however, to expect employees to focus on work-related tasks during business hours, and every company should place guidelines and some restrictions on internet usage at work.

The primary purpose of these guidelines is to maintain productivity during work hours, but an internet usage policy should also protect employees from bullying or harassment and preserve the reputation of the company.

An internet usage policy may include:

  • notification of restricted access to websites that may be distracting, offensive, or expose the company to a third-party threat (eg virus, malware or hackers)
  • a clear authorisation process for the use of certain software tools and programs and restrictions on downloads
  • guidelines for the responsible use of social media both during and outside of work hours
  • specific rules on what is considered reasonable use of company-owned equipment such as computers, printers, scanners, tablets, smartphones and laptops
  • any restrictions on mentioning the company online or on social media

What happens when an employee does not comply with an email policy at work?

An employee who does not conduct themselves online in a reasonable manner is not acting in good faith towards the business, and failing to follow clearly defined company policy may be considered misconduct.

Depending on the extent of the non-compliance, employee behaviour over email, or online generally, may in some cases be considered serious misconduct. This might include situations where employees share harmful information about the company or spread personal information outside work hours.

It is important to determine whether an employee action would be considered misconduct or serious misconduct before proceeding with the correct disciplinary procedure. A workplace relations advisor can assist with the correct process to follow.

For advice on how to implement an email and internet usage policy in the workplace, contact Employsure on 0800 568 012.

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