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E-mail Policies

Most companies have e-mail facilities, and as e-mail becomes external as well as internal, the need for clear policies or codes of practice becomes more important. The many subtle ways in which electronic mail differs from paper based mail can have disproportionate effects on the ways in which people expect to deal with electronic mail and the ways in which they ought to deal with it.

First, an employer has the capacity to issue what are called 'lawful directions' to their employees. The policy should be such a lawful direction. This means that it is now something which is agreed as such with the employees and the policy can be changed as experience develops. In addition to the policies it is also important to explain different factors in e-mail which need to be understood.

The policy should cover:-

  1. The use of e-mail for private purposes. Is any e-mail sent by other companies computer system to be treated as confidential? Who is to own the copyright and therefore have the right to storage and so forth.
  2. The use of encryption. Staff should know that e-mail should be treated as insecure, as the equivalent of a postcard. A very strict encryption policies are required in order to ensure that material is not made so secure that it becomes unavailable to anybody ?
  3. The policy should cover the need neither to send nor receive via e-mail anything other than plain text. Modern e-mail systems can transmit and receive many forms of files including executable programme files. Many word processing files are now capable of incorporating also executable code which can cause great damage to computer systems. The practice of defence against such attacks is continually changing and needs to be reviewed constantly.
  4. Staff must be aware of basic issues of copyright infringement of defamation of harassment provisions, and criminal liability for pornography.
  5. How is the e-mail to be marked? What will identify the differences between formal company e-mail and
  6. A developing difficulty is the management of spam. Copmany spam trappers can, as it were bite of more than they should chew - they can remove genuine e0mails. The management of spam email is a growing expense. If each employee spends up to ten or fifteen minutes eac day deleting spam, it is a disproportionate expense.
  7. An employer must also consider the real risk that a genune business email will be deleted along with, perhaps, another hundred spam emails.
Important: Please note that our law-bytes are retained for archival purposes only. The law changes, and these notes are often, now, out of date. You must take direct advice on your own personal situation and the law as it currently stands.
All information on this site is in general and summary form only. The content of any page on this site may be out of date and or incomplete, and you should not not rely directly upon it. Take direct professional legal advice which reflects your own particular situation.
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Copyright and Database Rights: David Swarbrick 2012
18 October 2013 15 18 October 2013