Louth Town Council Use of Council Email/Internet Policy and Procedure – Last review 25th January 2022, next review by April 2023
The use of the Internet is now an essential and commonplace tool for most Employees. Those who use the internet have a responsibility to do so in a professional manner. To assist with this we are issuing the following guidelines which you are asked to read and comply with:
The Council reserves the right to access and monitor any or all areas of any computer and computer software systems which it owns (including email boxes and messages and telephone calls) from time to time for business reasons and training purposes. You should not therefore assume that any information held on the computer is private and confidential to you.
Your Council email address can receive emails from anyone connected to the Internet. Used correctly it is a facility that is of assistance. Inappropriate use however may cause many problems including distractions, distress to others, time wasting and legal claims.
Staff and Councillors should ensure that your correspondents know that they should not send you “humorous” or illegal attachments such as pictures or executable programs. Personal emails should not be received to your Council email address. Anyone found with offensive or pornographic material on his or her Council email account or computer will be subject to investigation, which for employees could result in disciplinary action and dismissal for gross misconduct. Councillors will be reported to the monitoring officer.
If you receive an email from an unknown source, or “junk” email you should delete this from your system immediately without opening it as it may contain a virus.
Emails may contain file attachments. These should not be opened unless they are received from a trusted source, i.e. from another known Council, employee or representative. If in doubt ask your line manager.
Emails to customers, suppliers and other business contacts should be restricted to Council business. Confidential information about or relating to the business of the Council, its customers, suppliers or contacts should not be transmitted outside the Council via email unless done so in the course of business. You should ensure there is no infringement of copyright when adding attachments to emails. Confidential information should not be left on display on an unattended device.
You should be aware that deleted emails will remain held on the system for some time and will be accessible from back up if required for investigation of complaints of systems abuse.
You must not distribute sensitive commercial data concerning the Council to competitive sources. Doing so may result in investigation and for employees disciplinary action leading to dismissal without notice for gross misconduct.
Guidance for appropriate use
Email is a non-secure medium and care should be taken when composing, sending and storing messages.
Email should be regarded in the same way as any other business communication and should be treated as a Council record. You should adopt a style and content for email, in particular those sent to external recipients that present a professional image. It is recommended that you adopt the same standards for email as for letters and memos, although the style may be more informal.
Confidential information about or relating to the business of the Council, its customers, prospects, suppliers or contacts should not be transmitted outside the Council via email unless done so in the course of business and sufficient steps are taken to safeguard security.
Everyone must take reasonable steps to guard against unauthorised access to, alteration, accidental loss, disclosure or destruction of data.
You must not send internally or externally or obtain material (whether in the form of text or images) which is libellous or defamatory, illegal, obscene, sexually explicit, bullying, discriminatory or disparaging of others particularly in respect of their race, national origins, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, religious or political beliefs.
You are reminded that material that you find acceptable might be offensive to others. It is recommended that you take care and give sufficient thought to what you send. Messages can be misconstrued and should not become a substitute for “one to one” conversations. You should not send humorous material to anyone. It can frequently be misunderstood or cause offence.
Examples of inappropriate use include, but are not limited to:
1. Sending, receiving, downloading or displaying or disseminating material that insults causes offence or harasses others.
2. Accessing pornographic, racist or other inappropriate or unlawful material.
3. Engaging in on-line chat rooms, on-line gambling sites, social networking sites or blogging.
4. Forwarding electronic chain letters or similar material.
5. Downloading or disseminating copyright materials.
6. Transmitting confidential information about the Council or its customers externally and not in the course of the Council’s business.
7. Downloading or playing computer games.
8. Copying or downloading software.
Serious instances of inappropriate use may be considered gross misconduct and lead to investigation or in the case of employees, dismissal.
Internet access is granted for business reasons only during working hours. Usage is limited to work related activities. The availability and variety of information on the Internet has meant that it can be used to obtain material considered to be offensive. Anyone found to have used the Internet to access and/or distribute any kind of offensive material, or non-related employment issues, are liable to disciplinary action which could lead to dismissal.
Under no circumstances must users download files without the consent of your Line Manager.
If you wish to use the Internet out of office hours for personal purposes, please contact your Line Manager who will be able to grant you access and explain how to use this facility, if appropriate.
Anyone believed to have been visiting pornographic sites, downloading or circulating pornographic material will be subject to disciplinary action. Offences of this nature may be considered gross misconduct and lead to your dismissal, and if necessary, the police will be informed.
Please note that the main servers maintain a record of Internet access by user and these will be monitored as necessary and results forwarded to line managers and the police, if appropriate.