Email policy for small businesses

It’s been an embarrassing week for accountancy giant PWC. The company is at the centre of a growing storm regarding an email in which young female interns were rated by their male colleagues in a ‘Top 10’ list. The internal email quickly went viral.

Many newspapers and websites were so scandalised by the list that they splashed photos of the ‘top ten’ across their pages.

Clearly this does not reflect the public image PWC would like to project: that of an equal opportunities employer. And no doubt the firm is kicking itself for not preventing its internal circulation.

But it’s not just large corporates such as PWC that need to keep a check on staff emailing. “In many cases small businesses find it just as difficult to enforce acceptable email use policies as larger firms, because they may not have the in-house resources to stay on top of the staff education and policy enforcement,” says Ed Rowley, senior product manager, M86 Security.

Employees are becoming increasingly aware of their rights and employers are bound by vicarious liability where electronic communications are concerned. In other words, it is their legal responsibility to protect staff from what could be considered written abuse.

There is technology available for smaller businesses which can catche inappropriate content and automatically prevents it from being circulated internally, or sent externally.

Failing that, it’s worth reminding staff that you check all emails regularly and any messages containing sexist, bullying, racist or confidential content will be dealt with in the harshest manner.

As message worth reiterating given that most SMEs can scarce afford the fees that legal action usually involves.