Get your nose out of my inbox, mate!

Organisations that "snoop" on employee emails might get a slap on the wrist for their Big Brother antics, if New South Wales unions succeed in their push for new guidelines.

Organisations that "snoop" on employee emails might get a slap on the wrist for their Big Brother antics, if New South Wales unions succeed in their push for new guidelines.

AUSTRALIA (ZDNet Australia)-- Fifteen percent of large organisations in Australia "spy" on their employees - tracking individual email correspondence without informing workers.

"Our line is that employees should not be spied on and treated like some internal enemy," Labor Council of New South Wales industrial officer Michael Gadiel told ZDNet.

"Bosses that snoop on communications - it's more like an industrial model, not new economy one," he said.

The Labor Council is lobbying the NSW Government for the implementation of appropriate guidelines for email use in the workplace.

"It's an area which is totally unregulated outside the Commonwealth sector. There is no employee protection in place," Gadiel said.

The Council is recommending the same principles apply to email as those which apply to the Workplace Video Surveillance Act (NSW), which prohibits employers from conducting secret video surveillance staff.

"Covert surveillance should be prohibited. Unless an incident occurs where there is suspicion of serious misconduct, then an employer would need to get a warrant," Gadiel said.

Alternatively, he says policy should be in place that ensures employees are informed if emails are being tracked, and what sort of material is being scanned.

"If a piece of software running on a server is checking keywords, employees should be advised as to what the tripwire is," he said.

According to the Communications Law Centre's principal solicitor, John Corker, employee records are exempt from the Privacy Amendment Private Sector Act 2000, which becomes law next December.

"Most matters relating to employee correspondence will not be covered by the private sector act," Corker said.

Corker believes good managers are those who create an open and honest relationship between employers and staff.

"It's about the relationship of trust, which is basic management," he said.

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