Email policies may well be something that your company overlooks in terms of creating rules for employees. However, you might be surprised to know the importance of email policies, especially written policies, and how they can protect you in terms of liability and will make any discrepancies easier to resolve.
Email policies are vital in the workplace simply because of the ubiquity of email nowadays. Frequent email use means that they can be and are now used as evidence in court, and can even be the reason for a court case in the first place. The prolonged anti-trust case that concerned Microsoft is a recent example of a company’s use of email being called into question. However, it isn’t just for legal reasons that an email policy is useful to your business, you should also consider the damage that could be done to your company’s reputation if there were to be any disagreements.
All it may take is for an innocent, joking email between colleagues about a serious matter to be forwarded accidentally to the wrong person. This person may then report the email to a higher body, and, if this email was from your company’s account, you will be held responsible.
Of course, nothing malicious may have been meant by these emails, but the consequences can be serious.
In order to avoid any such mishaps, all you need is a simple policy concerning emails in the company. A simple, yet effective email policy might include:
- A statement that informs the employees whether or not their emails will be monitored. If you decide that it is important to frequently monitor their emails, your statement must explain your reason for doing so, how often and how strictly they will be surveilled. This isn’t in order to instill fear in your employees with regards to sending emails, but should leave them with a clear understanding that anything they send, store or receive on the company’s email system will be monitored.
- A statement that explains that your employee’s company email account is company property, and that you have the right to comment on or question any emails that pass through this account, or that may not bring any benefit to your business. It is in this statement that you should also say whether or not personal emails (emails that are irrelevant to work) are permitted on this account.
- A statement that indicates the aims and rules of the company’s email system. Three key elements of this that your employees should understand is that the system shouldn’t be used to send:
- Confidential, personal information
- Offensive information
- Illegal information
You should advise employees to contact you immediately if they receive any emails that might breach these rules.
It is advisable that you present your email policies to employees at the same time as they receive their contract. Having them sign the policy could work as confirmation that they have acknowledged and accepted the rules concerning emails, and are aware of the consequences if they fail to abide.
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