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Requests for access to email accounts of absent staff

Typical Scenario

A staff member has gone away on holiday. An important or urgent problem has occurred which requires access to their email account.

Important Notes

  • Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 all staff are required to take steps to manage their email during planned absences. This can be done by either arranging for someone else to check the account regularly or by the setting of an autoresponse directing the sender to another contact address within the university. Not responding to an FOI request within 20 days is against the law
  • During planned absences all staff are expected to take whatever actions are necessary to ensure the smooth continuation of business operations. Some staff allow trusted colleagues to check their account in their absence. Contact the Helpdesk to set this up.
  • All email sent and received by WBS email accounts is considered the property of WBS and ultimately the University of Warwick and can be accessed when university business demands.


In the event where access to the email account of an absent member of staff is required the following procedure must be followed:

  1. Reasonable efforts must be made by the group to contact the account holder and seek an agreed means of access to the material.
  2. In circumstance where such arrangements cannot be agreed, or are impractical, the Head of Group/Department (or person formally recognised as acting in this role) can request, with due regard for the importance and urgency of the situation, privileged access to the account.

    Such a request must be emailed to the Helpdesk and include a brief description of the need. The Helpdesk Manager or Head of Information Services will then decide whether such access is merited and if so will organise the changing of the user’s email password. This will then be given to the Head of Group/Department to allow them, or person nominated by them, to access the account. Access time should be minimised as far as possible and limited to the stated need.
  3. The email account holder will be aware of the access to the account by the fact that the password has changed. When requested, WBS Solutions will make available to the account holder the email requesting access to their account.