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Email Usage Policies - What To Include

Published August 25, 2016 (last updated on July 8, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Content Writer


One of the most contentious areas of managing a workplace is what your employees do with technology, particularly their emails. Depending on the industry, businesses may not function without email because it is such a convenient, flexible and immediate tool to communicate internally amongst employees and externally with customers/clients, prospects, suppliers and more.

However, the fact is, emails can be misused. A careless email can quickly cause a number of problems, including distractions, time wasting and potential claims or complaints, even when this was not the intention.

The best protection is to have a comprehensive policy outlining email usage at work, providing guidelines to employees on what is, and importantly what is not acceptable. As an employer, you may wish to create a separate email usage policy or include an email policy section in the Employee Handbook.

So what should the email usage policy include?

Email risks

Your policy should list email risks to make employees aware of the potential harmful effects of their actions. Advise employees that sending an email is like sending a postcard: if you do not want it posted on a bulletin board, you should not send it.

Prohibited content

The policy should expressly state the emails are not to be used for the creation or distribution of any offensive or abusive messages, including messages containing offensive comments about race, gender, age, sexual orientation, pornography, religious or political beliefs, national origin or disability. State that employees who receive any emails with this content should report the matter to management immediately.

Treatment of confidential data

Include rules and guidelines on how employees should deal with your company’s confidential information. They should also be aware that they should not forward any confidential messages or attachments from external parties without permission.

Personal usage

The policy should state whether personal emails are accepted or not. If not, the policy should outline examples that are unacceptable such as social invitations, personal messages, jokes, cartoons, chain letters or other private matters.

Best practices

It is worthwhile including email etiquette and writing rules in order to uphold the good reputation of your company and to deliver quality customer service. For instance, encourage employees to comply with your communication standards, and warn that offers or contracts transmitted by email are as legally binding on the employer as those sent on paper.

Email monitoring

If you are going to monitor or review your employees’ emails, you must state this in your email policy. Warn that employees should have no expectation of privacy in anything they create, store, send or receive on the company’s computer system and that the company may audit or monitor emails without prior notice.

Consequences of breaching the policy

Warn that if an employee is found to be in breach of the email policy rules, this could result in disciplinary action, up to and including summary dismissal.

As an employer, you have the right to protect your business interests and confidentiality with an email usage policy. Speak to an Peninsula specialist today on 1300 651 415 about implementing an email policy for your workplace.

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