The European Court of Human Rights’ judgment on the right of a Romanian worker to privacy in his email accounts clarifies the boundary for UK employers on rights to privacy in the workplace.
In this case, the employer asked Bărbulescu to set up an email account for work purposes. He was subsequently dismissed after his employer checked his messages and found he had been sending personal messages to his brother and fiancée during working times.
The original ECtHR judgment found that Bărbulescu ‘s right to respect for private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights had not been breached. They judged that it was reasonable for employers to check whether employees were carrying out work during working hours.
The decision of the Grand Chamber, however, overturns this decision. They found the employer had not struck a fair balance between the right to privacy and the employer’s right to ensure the effective running of the company.