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Alice H
Alice H, Solicitor/Partner
Category: UK Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 2849
Experience:  Partner in national law firm with 25 years legal experience
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My work have suspended me on one issue and now, having accessed

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My work have suspended me on one issue and now, having accessed my work laptop they have read a letter which I typed to my mother nine months ago. They have printed this letter and used it as evidence against me in a disciplinary hearing to be held next week.
Can they really lawfully open a private letter and use it in such a way, and copy it to others?
My name isXXXXX and I am a Solicitor based in London. I'm happy to help with your question today.

What does the letter say?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

It talks about what I have been doing work wise and my plans for the future work wise. It talks about the weather, my brother and sister, forthcoming plans for Christmas and my son.

My work are using it as evidence against me as they state that I was undertaking other work which I had not declared as I state in the letter that I had been "passed some private work for a fee".

I wrote this, but it was not the truth. I was trying to impress my mother. Work are saying that they have found other evidence which indicates that I was asking a client of theirs for a fee. I know this to be untrue as I have never undertaken any private fee paying work. I am just concerned as to whether they are behaving lawfully by using the letter. I can challenge everything else they say because I know that I did not undertake private work.

Hi.Please bear with me for 10 mins while I type an answer. Alex
Thanks for your patience.

The monitoring of workplace communications is protected by data protection laws and you have a right of privacy. However, your employer can monitor your use of the phone, computer, internet, e-mail or fax in the work place to establish facts which are relevant to the business, to check that procedures are being followed, or to check standards, detect crime or to
check for unauthorised activity.

In your case the letter was clearly on your work laptop and makes mention of work related issues. As such there is a prima facie argument that the letter is relevant to disciplinary related issues. If the letter was wholly family related then, of course, it would completely irrelevant.

You can certainly argue that the letter is irrelevant and has no probative value, but on this occasion - because of your comments in the letter - I think your employer is in a strong position to argue that it is relevant and should be introduced as evidence.

I'm sorry if this is not great news but I have to give you an honest and objective opinion.

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