We are going through a situation where we have a former employee who will continue to do contract work for us. The boss thinks it is normal to IMMEDIATELY suspend their accounts and delete their email. What is normal for your organization with regards to terminated employees?

What if they will remain working on a contract basis (which requires an email account)? Do you keep their access to their email archive if they say it will help do their job better?

If you work at a university, what is the policy in regards to professors who may be in the middle of research projects and leave for another university? Do they retain access to their accounts?

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    Far too subject as there is no such thing as "normal" in such circumstances. Each company or organisation creates its own standards. – John Gardeniers Oct 12 '10 at 21:03
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    In any large organization, deleting e-mail is never to be taken lightly. You are very likely to be subject to retention requirements, either by law or by policy. I personally have worked for an organization that kept former employees' e-mail for at least 2 years, and in at least one instance the retained e-mail turned out to be extremely important many months after the termination date of the involved parties. It would have been quite problematic if the e-mail had not been retained. – Skyhawk Oct 12 '10 at 21:11
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    Keep in mind, Miles, that deleting the account isn't the same as deleting the emails themselves - e.g. archiving, backups, etc. will still have the contents of the account on them. Disabling then deleting the account mitigates the need for managing data added to that mailbox after the employee who 'owns' it has left. – Rob Moir Oct 12 '10 at 23:20

I work at a college and used to work at a university so I'll take a swing at this - In both places, when someone leaves we freeze their access to their email account and only allow access to their line manager and only if they ask in writing. After a while, say a term, we delete it.

You need to have a written policy that you can demonstrate you're following (and it should probably outline that line manager/HoD can access email, that whoever does so will not read obviously private and personal email, etc), and this should be based on business requirements and more importantly, the legal framework for this kind of thing in your country.

EDIT +1 MarkM for the HR point - should have added that myself.

Regardless of who leads and who follows, Justin, you absolutely should get agreement with HR about whatever process you decide to follow in the end.

After all, it's them who will have to defend/justify it in the first instance if a disgruntled ex-employee complains. It's also them who might have to publish it in the employee handbook/intranet/whatever before it is valid.

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    +1 I also work at a university and this is pretty standard. The only one that can have access is their supervisor or someone else in that department that the supervisor might report to. We also only do this upon written request. You should really have a written policy for this though, perhaps check with HR if you are unsure? – MDMarra Oct 12 '10 at 20:10
  • Thanks guys. The sticking point for me was the combination of continued contract work and ongoing research which the university had supported would all of a sudden be cutoff. We have a pretty standard email policy that doesn't dive into exact process on departure. – Justin Higgins Oct 12 '10 at 20:29
  • Happy to help Justin. As for contractors, I'd just create a new mailbox - does the organisation want to differentiate contract employees, add them (or bar them) to certain distribution lists, etc. Best to have a clean break and set things up again fresh imo. – Rob Moir Oct 12 '10 at 20:31

There are few things you need to remember: preserving logs of who had access to what data (you may be legally obliged to do this), mails can be a useful tool if there ever is a suspicion of corporate espionage or selling of trade secrets.


Leavers' mailboxes and home directories are signed over to their line manager. Typically, the line manager asks for them to be removed quite quickly.


We would typically archive their inbox and save it to an archive server/Terra station.

If the users management need access to the content of the inbox we would provide one person (normally direct line manager) with a copy so they can bring it into their Outlook. I'm assuming you're using Exchange/Outlook.

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