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Friday, 24 August, 2001, 07:18 GMT 08:18 UK
E-mail snoopers 'risk legal action'
Bosses who phone staff at home or vet employees' e-mails could face legal action, UK executive representatives have warned.

Ringing staff at home to discuss work matters could, under UK human rights legislation, be construed as an invasion of privacy, the Institute of Management has said.

"An employer does not have the right to demand an employee's telephone number, unless it is specified in the contract that the employee has a duty to be available outside normal working hours," the institute said.

The institute also warned that unauthorised vetting of e-mails and phone calls, could be considered an invasion of privacy, even if employees are thought to be sending personal messages through company lines.

Controversial laws

The claim follows the introduction in October of hotly-contested legislation allowing firms to tap phone calls or open e-mails sent by their employees.

The institute warned that such snooping could represent a breach of the Human Rights Act, introduced three weeks before.

Article eight of the act states: "Everyone has the right to respect for their private and family life, their home and their correspondence."

The institute's warning was backed by the Trades Union Congress, which has also cautioned executives over e-mail monitoring.

"It is important that employers respect employees' rights to privacy in the workplace as well as the home," a TUC spokeswoman said.

The Confederation of British Industry said: "Of course employees' privacy should be respected.

"But sometimes the needs of businesses must take precedence, although the CBI does not encourage excessive contact [with employees] out of hours."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Martin Lewis
"Business are being encouraged not call employees at home"
Andrew May, Institute of Management
"At the moment British citizens cannot easily take an employer to court on the Human Rights Act"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Privacy
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See also:

06 Jun 01 | Business
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19 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
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15 Dec 00 | Sci/Tech
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18 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
Cybercops arrest online liberty
01 Jun 01 | Sci/Tech
Warning over e-mail snooping
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