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Those organisations which see the employer-employee relationship as a partnership in which both have their part to play may well decide that enabling employees to make and receive personal messages in work time is a reasonable step to take
In our recent article ‘working until we drop’ we wrote about work-life balance and the importance of businesses and employees working side-by-side in a mutually rewarding partnership. Now another aspect of that partnership has hit the headlines. A recent European Court of Human Rights case has resulted in a ruling to the effect that an employer had the right to read a workers Yahoo messenger chats sent while he was at work.
The ruling has given rise to a variety of headlines including some which saw the ruling as effectively creating a snooper’s charter for employers. However, when you delve into the facts of the case a different picture emerges. The employee in question had used work equipment to access the messaging facility despite there being a ban in place on sending personal messages in work time and despite having been warned that the company may check messages at any time. Taken in this context the ruling merely upholds the company’s right to check on its own equipment and systems and to discipline someone for breaking company rules.
Of course, whether the company was right to impose such a ban is another matter entirely. Those organisations which see the employer-employee relationship as a partnership in which both have their part to play may well decide that enabling employees to make and receive personal messages in work time is a reasonable step to take; particularly when those same employees may well be responding to work emails in private time. Indeed, the rise in blended lifestyles in which work and private time become ever more entwined may well result in an expectation that interactions, whether business or private, can take place as the need arises rather than at arbitrarily defined work or home times.