County Durham businesses could in big trouble for monitoring email and internet usages, after a recent court ruling.

The EU ruling has set a new precedent on monitoring staff communications at work.

The ruling means local employers could be accused of spying or breaching human rights if the way they handle personal email and internet usage isn’t handled correctly.

It also means that, should an employee prove that they’ve been unfairly dismissed for their use of emails and the web, they could receive thousands of pounds in compensation – the average award for unfair dismissal is almost £14,000

The European Court of Human Rights ruled bosses can’t spy on the internet usage, phone logs and emails of employees, if they don’t tell them that they may be monitored in an employment contract.

The recent ruling came after a Romanian was fired after sending personal messages from a work account, but he argued that he hadn’t been told his account would be monitored and this breached his human rights.

Businesses in Durham are encouraged to check their contracts to make sure that if they want to monitor communications, it’s done right and doesn’t fall foul of this ruling.

With the new data protection laws coming in next year, it’s an ideal time to review all the data monitoring processes and make sure they’ll be compliant for May 2018.

Alison Schreiber from The HR Dept, Durham and Darlington, said: “Getting contracts and monitoring policies right has never been more important and the costs of falling short have never been higher.

“It can often seem like an issue that might not impact you, but every employee has to have a contract and every IT monitoring policy needs to match up and be compliant.”

With employment tribunal fees recently being abolished, it’s never been easier to employees to take their bosses to court.

Alison added: “If Durham small business owners are worried about making sure they’re compliant and in a position to avoid a tribunal altogether, we’d suggest seeking expert advice.”