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Email correspondence is crucial in most New Zealand businesses. Even companies that involve physical or tactile work still typically use emails to correspond with clients, customers, employees and suppliers. While most employees use email to some extent in their role, it can be a problem when used incorrectly. Therefore, an email policy is always an important policy to have in your business. This article will explain what an email usage policy is, why your business should consider introducing one if it does not have one in place already, and a general overview of things to include.

What Is an Email Usage Policy?

A well-written email usage policy should give clear guidelines to employees. For instance, the policy should outline the acceptable use of email at work and the work email accounts they have access to. Email usage policies have become more important over the last few years. Indeed, the speed and convenience of email have made it vital for most businesses. However, misuse of email can cause problems between workers. It can even constitute misconduct if an employee does not use their email appropriately. 

An employee who does not appropriately use their email is not acting in good faith towards the business. Making these expectations clear in a policy helps employees understand how to use their email.

In severe cases, issues with an employee misusing email can amount to misconduct. Therefore, having a policy in place to manage these cases is important.

Should Your Business Have an Email Usage Policy?

Every business with a lot of email use should have a related policy. Indeed, email is an essential part of most businesses’ communications, so an email usage policy is crucial. In fact, it may be the policy that impacts employees most.

There are few negatives to introducing an email usage policy. Evidently, these policies make expectations clear to employees by setting out a process for any breaches of appropriate standards. As a result, the policy reinforces good behaviour. Therefore, it makes it easier to address any unwelcome behaviour with email use. Email usage policies also tend to be less complicated policies to draft and explain to staff.

What To Include in an Email Usage Policy?

There are several things that an email usage policy could include. You should consider current practices in your business, and whether they are in line with your business’ values. Ensure that any issues or possible issues are referenced in the policy. 

General terms that are often worth covering in an email usage policy include:

  • whether personal emails can be sent using a work email address;
  • clarification of inappropriate or unwelcome emails and instructions to avoid sending an email that might make the recipient uncomfortable in some way;
  • specific definitions and examples of bullying, harassment and aggressive behaviour, with the clear understanding that this behaviour will not be tolerated;
  • regulations around talking about the company over email, particularly when the content could be considered harmful or damaging communication;
  • expectations around potentially problematic discussions over email such as gossip about another employee; 
  • the process that would be followed for any breach of the policy; and 
  • possible penalties imposed on employees who do not act in good faith in their emails at work.

Key Takeaways

Yes, your business should probably have an email usage policy. This is because many workplaces have issues from time to time with employees not using email effectively or appropriately. Having a relevant policy lets you set expectations clearly. You can outline what is unacceptable, and it provides a framework to manage misuse. Cementing your expectations around emails in an easy-to-understand policy will help clarify the business’ position to employees.

If you want to know more about email usage policies or for help designing one for your business, contact LegalVision’s employment lawyers on 0800 005 570 or complete the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an email usage policy?

An email policy gives guidelines and rules to employees about the acceptable use of email at work and any work email accounts they may have access to. 

Should your business have an email usage policy?

Yes, all businesses should have email policies to help set best practices and guidelines for employees. There is no harm in encouraging good behaviour and appropriate use of email, and it may help prevent future email-related incidents or misconduct.

Should an email usage policy be separate from a social media policy?

Different organisations take different approaches to email usage and social media. Often it is clearer to separate the two policies and have specific guidelines for each. However, some businesses may prefer to combine all online policies and practices into one document.

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