Monday, 29 January 2018

Tread carefully with online messages

Employers should tread very carefully when it comes to monitoring their employees’ emails and messages, a local solicitor has warned.

Gemma Workman, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said employers should make their staff aware of any monitoring of their communications, as they could be guilty of breaching the employee’s right to privacy.

Her warning follows a court case where the European Court of Human Rights backed an employee who was dismissed after his employer found he’d been using a company online account to send private messages.

“In this case, the employee sent personal messages to his family, but he wasn’t informed that his emails and messages would be monitored.

“The court ruled that the employee’s privacy should have been protected by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees respect for private and family life, so the employee won his case.”

The case involved an employee who worked in sales and who was asked to set up a Yahoo Messenger account to answer client’s enquiries. He had been warned not to use it for private matters, but was found to have been using it to exchange personal messages with family members.

“The court’s ruling is a warning to employers that they need to think very carefully about why they need to monitor an employee’s emails and what they are trying to protect,” said Miss Workman. “Usually it’s to ensure they are complying with the law and their obligations, and so that’s likely to be a legitimate reason.

“But you must warn employees in advance that you might monitor their emails and text messages, and that you reserve the right to do so. You could refer to this right in the staff handbook so it’s absolutely clear.

“Another option for employers though is to block employees’ access to personal emails on their systems altogether, rather than retaining the right to review their private communications. It’s clear that employers need to tread very carefully when it comes to online messages, and that they must ensure their staff know exactly where they stand.”


Friday, 26 January 2018

Customer data warning for businesses

Shropshire business owners could be missing out on valuable customer information if they don’t offer free Wi-Fi for customers and visitors.

But Andrew Oranjuik from Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said it was vital that the information collected was handled sensitively and appropriately.

“For many businesses, there’s often a time when customers have time on their hands while they’re waiting at your offices, and it’s the perfect time for them to catch up on emails or check the latest news headlines.

“By offering free Wi-Fi, you’re not only keeping your customers happy, there are advantages for your business too – in particular, information.

“You are controlling the network connection, so you can set your website as the homepage and ask for customer data such as their name, email address, and age, which is extremely useful for future marketing campaigns.

“But make it very clear what your customers are signing up to and how the data will be used. Don’t ask for too many details either or you could put your clients off altogether.”

Mr Oranjuik said new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules which come into force later this year were also a consideration for business owners.

“Businesses will have to comply with much stricter guidelines and be far more transparent about how they process customer data.

“So collecting information while your customers are on your premises will need to be very carefully managed and you’ll need to provide an active opt-in where they individually agree to you holding their details. Of course, if they want to use your Wi-Fi network, they will probably be more than happy to let you have their personal information, so it’s a win-win situation.

“You’ll need to ensure you have business broadband with unlimited downloads, and keep the new ‘public’ network clearly separate from your business Wi-Fi network by giving it a separate name and access code. Don’t be tempted to work with an open network where no access code is required as non-customers will be able to make use of your Wi-Fi just by being in the area.

“Give your customers a user-friendly code and promote it clearly inside your building. You’ll also need to ensure you have the highest level of cyber security in place so that all data transmitted will be encrypted. Free Wi-Fi can give your business a head-start when it comes to collecting key information, but beware the new GDPR rules and make sure you’re handling the details you collect with care.”

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Don't be deceitful over divorce

Divorcing couples have been warned not to try to massage the truth on court papers to secure a better deal.

Gemma Himsworth, who leads the family law team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said research had shown there was an increase in the number of divorce petitions that were actually stretching the truth.

“Most people would assume that divorce papers would be an accurate reflection of why the marriage broke down and who was to blame.

“But in fact, only three in 10 people who were surveyed said the reason for their fault-based divorce closely matched the reason why they separated.”

Mrs Himsworth said some petitions included false claims and admissions of adultery, and the tweaking of separation dates to reduce the wait times in two and five-year separation cases.

“This is a very dangerous game to play and although it may seem tempting to try to make a divorce case easier and quicker, couples should be very careful if they decide to go down this route.

“A divorce petition is a document that goes before a court, and so it needs to be true and accurate otherwise there can be serious consequences. Taking such a risk can be costly, stressful and lead to the divorce taking longer to resolve, with the even bigger risk that you may have to start all over again or amend the petition if it is found to be incorrect.”

Mrs Himsworth urged divorcing couples to seek proper advice to enable them to navigate the grounds for divorce fairly and effectively.

“The trouble with fault-based divorces is that they don’t reflect the reality of relationship breakdown for most couples, and they also do nothing to help them deal with the aftermath of the break-up.

“The family justice organisation, Resolution, has campaigned for a no-fault divorce system and to ‘make no-fault the default. This could make a stressful situation much more comfortable for both partners, and reduce the chances of any additional conflict moving forwards.

“It’s time for divorcing couples to think very carefully before they are economical with the truth, and to work towards a positive and healthier result.”