Q&As

Is an employer permitted to access and read a former employee's private emails and documents that are stored on the employer's IT systems, with a view to finding evidence to dispute the former employee's version of events and/or damage his credibility at an employment tribunal hearing?

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Published on LexisPSL on 04/01/2017

The following Information Law Q&A provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Is an employer permitted to access and read a former employee's private emails and documents that are stored on the employer's IT systems, with a view to finding evidence to dispute the former employee's version of events and/or damage his credibility at an employment tribunal hearing?

Is an employer permitted to access and read a former employee's private emails and documents that are stored on the employer's IT systems, with a view to finding evidence to dispute the former employee's version of events and/or damage his credibility at an employment tribunal hearing?

An individual’s private emails and, depending upon the contents, private documents, will comprise personal data as defined in section 1 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA 1998). They may also include sensitive personal data within the meaning of DPA 1998, s 2.

As data controller, the employer (or former employer) must comply with the eight data protection principles in relation to personal data (including sensitive personal data) (DPA 1998, s 4(4), Sch 1, Part I).

In accordance with the first data protection principle, unless an exemption applies, personal data must not be processed unless at least one of the following conditions is met:

  1. the individual who is the subject of the personal data has consented to the processing

  2. the processing is necessary:

    1. in relation to a contract which the individual has entered into, or

    2. because the individual has asked for something to be done so they can enter into a contract

  3. the processing is necessary because of a legal obligation that applies to the data controller (other than an obligation imposed by a contract)

  4. the processing is necessary to protect

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