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Telco Cable & Wireless has become the latest company to sack staff for abuse of its email system.

Six staff in C&W's Birmingham sales office received their P45 for sending what a spokesperson described as "obscene" emails which it viewed as an act of severe misconduct.

When the abuse came to light the staff were suspended and dismissed after a hearing a week later. As the people involved were employed by C&W for less than a year they have no right of appeal to an industrial tribunal.

As employers are taking an increasingly hard line, and electronic surveillance is stepped up in the workplace, company rules are increasingly like to come up against more stringent data protection rules and the provisions of the Human Rights Act.

While legally untested, these rules might prevent employers opening messages unless staff are suspected of a criminal offence - which is a far stricter test than current government regulations allow. ®

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