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Stop! Reading your employees' email could mean a fine of up to R2 million

by , 30 June 2015
Do you know, legally, you can't monitor your employees' email without his permission (Regulation of Interception of Communications Act No 7 of 2002 (RICA))?

And, if you do, you can get a fine of up to R2 million, or even a prison sentence for up to 10 years. Let's look at how to find out how you can legally look at your employee's emails using your computers.

Two ways to keep an eye on communications
You can only monitor your employees' emails if you:
1. Get permission in writing
You can intercept and read emails if your employee agrees in writing. Do this by having a clause in your employment contracts saying employees must stick to your policies and procedures, as amended from time to time. Then implement a communications policy that allows you to intercept correspondence generated from company assets. Any new employees must sign it. For existing employees, introduce or change your current policy – if the terms of the policy aren't a term and condition of employment - to let them know you can check their comms. If the policy is part of your terms and conditions, and it does let you intercept emails without consent, consult with employees to change their terms and conditions.
Keep reading for the next way...

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50 HR Policies and Procedures your company MUST have if you want to stay out of trouble at the CCMA. Don't wait for that 'when the need arises' moment to put the appropriate HR Policy or Procedure in place... 


2. Monitor communication in the course of your business
You can also intercept any indirect communication if it's 'in the course of the carrying on of any business'. This is communication which:
a) Results in an agreement on a certain matter in the course of your business. For example, agreeing to sell a product at a certain price;
b) Relates to your business. For example, providing a quote on your product; or
c) Takes place in the course of the carrying on of your business, or using your telephones. For example, responding to a query from a customer. 
The basic principle, if you have the policies in place, is this: An employee doesn't have a reasonable expectation of privacy when using company assets. So, you may access the information if you have a reasonable expectation that the company's at risk. Or that the employee's committing misconduct. By using the company's assets for personal use, he's choosing to abandon his right to privacy about the specific information.  
Don't be caught checking your employee's emails illegally! Implement an electronic communications policy today. Don't have one? Get one here...

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