Human Resources

Use of telephones, e-mail and internet by staff

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 e-mail/the Internet on a personal computer. Although access to such facilities does not form part of the benefits provided to staff, it is recognised that there are occasions when employees might legitimately make private use of these facilities. This policy is intended to make clear what constitutes legitimate use. It is intended not to place employees under unjustifiable scrutiny, but to give them a high measure of security and confidence about their use of e-mail, telephones and the Internet.

The sections of the policy covered by misconduct and misuse should be read in conjunction with the appropriate staff disciplinary procedure as well as BUCS Acceptable Use and Security Policies.

This policy has 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.

Telephones

There will be occasions when employees need to make short, personal telephone calls on University telephones in order to deal with occasional and urgent personal matters. Where possible, such calls should be made and received outside the employee’s normal working hours or when they do not interfere with work requirements.

The use of University telephones for private purposes, which are unreasonably excessive or for University purposes which are defamatory, obscene or otherwise inappropriate, may be treated as misconduct under the appropriate disciplinary procedure.

Where the University has grounds to suspect possible misuse of its telephones, it reserves the right to audit 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 University reserves the right to record calls.

E-mail

As with telephones it is recognised that employees can use e-mail for personal means in the same manner as that set out for telephones above. E-mail 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 e-mail communication.

Employees should be careful that before they open any attachment to a personal e-mail they receive, they are reasonably confident that the content is in no sense obscene or defamatory to avoid contravening the law . Equally, if an employee receives an obscene or defamatory e-mail, whether unwittingly or otherwise and from whatever source, s/he should not intentionally forward the e-mail to any other address, unless specifically requested to do so by an investigator appointed by the University. Any other use of e-mail for either personal or University 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.

Where the University has reasonable grounds to suspect misuse of e-mail in either scale of use, content or nature of messages, it reserves the right to audit the destination, source and content of e-mail to and from a particular address.

The University also reserves the right to access an employee’s e-mail account in her/his unexpected or prolonged absence (eg – due to sickness) in order to allow it to continue to undertake the employee’s normal role. In normal circumstances the employee concerned will be contacted before this is done, in order to provide him/her with prior knowledge.

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 University role. However, it is legitimate for employees to make use of the Internet in its various forms in the same way as email above 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.

Unauthorised use of the Internet will be treated as misconduct under the appropriate disciplinary procedure. The University reserves the right to audit the use of the Internet from particular Personal Computers or accounts where it suspects misuse of the facility

Auditing use of telephone, e-mail and the Internet

It is not the University’s policy, as a matter of routine, to monitor a fellow employee’s use of the University’s telephone or e-mail service or of the Internet via the University’s networks. However, as has been stated, where there are reasonable grounds to suspect an instance of misuse or abuse of any of these services, the University Secretary, the Director of Human Resources or in exceptional circumstances their duly authorised Deputies, may grant permission for the auditing of an employee’s telephone calls e-mail or the Internet. Once approved, the monitoring process will be undertaken by designated staff in BUCS acting, for operational purposes, under the direction of the Director of Computing Services. These staff are required to observe the strictest confidentiality when undertaking these activities and they will monitor only to the extent necessary to establish the facts of the case. They will make their reports directly to the Director of Human Resources or the Director’s delegated representative to enable Human Resources to advise the appropriate line manager/head of department the actions that may need to be taken in any particular case. When monitoring is approved, the case for continued monitoring shall be reviewed on a regular basis with a view to terminating monitoring in as short a period of time as possible.