During 2020 we have seen the interpretation of what constitutes a workplace dramatically widen. How then, does this apply to the connection between using your work email account to send personal emails? Or similarly, send a personal email while “at work”.

The lines are increasingly blurring between personal and work emails in the workplace, and Gene Schirripa from our Business Law team takes you through an interesting case study on a key risk linked to this, and how to try and avoid the risks.

Real life example

One such risk is that personal emails may be used as evidence against employees if litigation arises with respect to the employment relationship.

In Harvey v Egis Road Operation Australia Pty Ltd (2015) FWC 2306, in hearing an unfair dismissal claim, the FWC considered evidence sent by the employee from his personal email.

In that case the personal email referred to the employee’s role and the organisation. The FWC held that while it was sent from a personal account, it “expressly referred to his position and the company’s brand…..and he should have been sufficiently conscious of the need to preserve the good name and reputation of the employer”.

Mr Harvey was unsuccessful in bringing his claim, and the FWC held that the email “reflected poorly” on him.

Thus, employees must remain vigilant even when sending emails, texts or any correspondence from personal accounts, especially if they are holding themselves out as representatives of their employer.

This also goes for using your work email for a personal matter.

Reduce the risk

There are a number of really simple steps that employees can take to mitigate risks when it comes to use of personal email in the workplace. These include:

  • Read and understand policies regarding emails in the workplace;
  • If there is no such policy, request direction from your employer;
  • Where possible limit personal email use from workplace devices (and use personal phone and tablets instead).

There’s no “hard and fast rule” here, but applying a common sense application of when and how to communicate on personal matters is the important part.

How can we help

If you have issues regarding communications in the workplace, contact the business and employment team at Snedden Hall & Gallop Lawyers today.