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Confusion Hits the E-Mail Trail

January 10, 2001 

TWO thirds of Lancashire businesses have no formal staff e-mail policy despite recent high profile cases in other parts of the country of lewd messages leading to staff being dismissed.

The lack of formal policy is being blamed on confusion about current legislation.

But by leaving the issue vague firms are putting themselves at risk of staff either accusing them of bullying and invasion of privacy at one extreme, or of them wasting time and resources on unsuitable or even dangerous e-mails at the other, according to risk managers Smithson Mason Group (SMG).

Potential damage to the company also includes lost productivity, network downtime and legal liability when company business is compromised.

SMG's joint managing director Martin Hill said: "It has been unclear how to regulate e-mail use by employees ever since they became an everyday part of business life. Most companies have, therefore, been reluctant to have a formal approach.

"The situation is rapidly becoming clearer and ignoring it is potentially very costly. A straightforward, honest e-mail policy will act as a deterrent to e-mail abuse in itself."

Among the tips put forward by SMG are:

Put your policy in writing and make sure every employee has a copy or has seen a copy.

Be fair. Banning personal e-mail and telephone calls completely may cause resentment and infringe human rights.

Try to give an idea of how you will be monitoring.

Define what you regard as abuse.

Explain what measures will be taken if someone is found to be abusing company networks.

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© 2001 Newsquest Media Group. A Gannett Company

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