Monday, 28 January 2013

Online and e-mail risks

The Director of Public Prosecutions has issued guidelines for use by the Crown Prosecution Service when considering whether different types of communicated content might give grounds for prosecution.

This Alpha briefing highlights the risks all employees should be aware of when using e-mail and the internet at work, sending work related e-mails or discussing the workplace on the internet.

Reputational risks

What you write in e-mails or on the internet could seriously damage your own or another person's reputation, you could lose your job and you and your company could be sued, fined or even imprisoned.

Stop and think before you click
  • Anything written in an e-mail has the potential for public exposure (for example, if the e-mail is forwarded to others).
  • Posting on the internet is essentially making a public statement (for example, when commenting on social media sites, blogs or other electronic forums).
  • Failing to take care about what you write can have serious personal, disciplinary and financial implications.
  • Even if you are e-mailing or using other forms of online communication in your own time, if you refer to people at work or work related matters, you and your company could get into trouble.

  • E-mails and internet postings can be used in legal proceedings
  • E-mails and internet postings can be used against you or your company in legal proceedings, disciplinary meetings or other regulatory investigations.
  • Never delete e-mails relating to a legal dispute or investigation or potential dispute or investigation.

  • It is very difficult to delete e-mails and online postings
  • Simply deleting e-mails or internet postings will not necessarily solve the problem. Forensic IT equipment can still find supposedly “deleted” messages.
  • What you publish online will likely be available for a long time, to be read by anyone, including the company itself, future employers and colleagues.

  • Do not be hurtful or spread rumours
  • Never send e-mails or post content online that could be thought of as obscene, racist, sexist, bullying or hurtful.
  • Never lie, exaggerate or make a false or inaccurate statement about another company or person. You could be sued even if an e-mail was only sent to one person.
  • Forwarding an e-mail can be just as serious as writing the original - you could be sued even if the original was sent or forwarded to only one person.

  • Take care with confidential information
  • Where possible, avoid sending confidential information (such as confidential intellectual property or trade secrets) by e-mail. Take legal advice on how the information can be best protected.
  • Any e-mail containing confidential information should be clearly marked as “confidential”.
  • If you receive an e-mail that contains another company’s confidential material (for example, a company’s trade secrets) and the e-mail was not part of a legitimate business transaction, you should take legal advice immediately. 

  • Do not make a contract by mistake
  • A legally binding contract can be made by a simple exchange of e-mails.
  • Make it clear if you do not intend the e-mail to be binding.

  • Do not copy someone else’s work
  • Only use or attach other people’s work to your e-mails if you have permission or you know it is not protected by copyright or other intellectual property rights (for example, trade mark rights). This includes photographs and music.
  • Do not assume that work you find on the internet is free to use.

  • Do not send or view offensive or unknown material
  • Monitor what arrives in your inbox, especially if you do not recognise the sender or the title of the e-mail seems odd.
  • If there is a risk that an e-mail may contain a virus, do not open it and inform the IT department immediately.
  • You could be disciplined or even dismissed for forwarding inappropriate e-mails or accessing inappropriate websites at work. In severe cases it could also be a criminal offence.

  • Avoid unproductive usage
  • Most businesses allow light personal internet and e-mail usage as long as it does not interfere with your duties. However, excessive, unproductive usage is not permitted and may be treated as gross misconduct.
  • E-mails can often be a waste of time. Think carefully before copying someone in on an e-mail, especially if there is a long chain of e-mails attached.

    If you require further information about this, please contact us.

    Wednesday, 23 January 2013

    Key Changes in 2013

    Below we look at some of the expected key events which will take place in employment law in 2013 and the dates of when these changes are expected to take place.

    1st February 2013

    Tribunal compensation limits will increase from £72,300 to £74,200.
    Maximum Limit on a week’s pay will increase from £430 to £450.

    February 2013

    Annual adjustments to various employment awards (including a week's pay for the purposes of calculating statutory redundancy payments and the basic award for unfair dismissal) will be rounded up to the nearest £1.


    8th March 2013

    Implementation of the Revised Parental Leave Directive - The regulations will increase the amount of unpaid parental leave that can be taken per child from 13 to 18 weeks. Unpaid parental leave will continue to be limited to a maximum of four weeks per year.

    March 2013

    Repeal of the third party harassment and the discrimination questionnaire provisions in the Equality Act 2010.


    6th April 2013

    Collective redundancy consultation period involving 100 or more employees reduced from 90 to 45 days and employees whose fixed-term contracts are due to expire excluded from consultation requirements.

    Statutory sick pay will increase from £85.85 to £86.70, with the weekly earnings threshold also rising from £107 to £109.

    7th April 2013

    The standard rates for statutory maternity pay, statutory paternity pay and statutory adoption pay will increase from £135.45 to £136.78. The weekly earnings threshold for these payments will rise from £107 to £109.

    April 2013

    A public interest requirement to whistleblowing disclosures will be introduced - an individual cannot bring "a whistleblowing case which relates to matters such as a personal contractual breach that are not in the public interest".

    The Growth and Infrastructure Bill 2012-13 is planned to come into effect introducing the concept of employee shareholder status.

    The Children and Families Bill will be introduced setting out a new system of flexible parental leave and flexible working.

    Summer 2013

    Fees will be introduced into the employment tribunal.

    Expected 2013

    The following provisions in the The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill 2012-13 are due to come into force :

    Mandatory pre-claim Acas conciliation.
    Enhanced shareholder rights regarding directors' remuneration.
    Reform the EHRC.
    Changes to employment tribunal procedure and the orders a tribunal can make.
    EAT judges to sit alone.
    Pre-termination negotiations will be inadmissible in unfair dismissal proceedings.

    Employment Law Reform Announcements

    On 17 January 2013, the government made a number of announcements on its ongoing employment law reform programme. The key developments are:

    The unfair dismissal compensatory award will be capped at the lower of one year's pay and the existing limit.
    Acas will shortly publish a draft statutory code of practice on how settlement agreements will operate once the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill has been enacted.
    A consultation on extensive changes to TUPE 2006, including the removal of the service provision change provisions.
    Proposals to simplify the regulation of the recruitment sector by repealing the Employment Agencies Act 1973 and the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations and replacing them with a new regulatory framework.
    Tackling long-term sickness absence by implementing most of the recommendations contained in the 2011 report, Health at work: an independent review of sickness absence.
    To find out more information about any of these changes, visit our website or contact us.