We received a letter addressed to a former employee, who parted ways with the company in bad terms.

The letter is obviously business related and pertinent to the company (located in NI).

Is it OK to open it? That is, without asking neither the former employee nor the senders for permission. Asking the former employee has the additional disadvantage that that would make him aware of the existence of the letter and he would probably not authorise us to open is.

Out of sight, out of mind, right? That would certainly work, but we can't be 100% that the whole issue will be kept out of sight, since other employees could be blabbermouth/sneaks. So, we'd like to proceed in a legal way.

In general, is it OK to open letters addressed to employees, if you can safely assume it's not private? Is this bad management style or outright illegal?

  • 3
    As this appears to be a legal question you should contact your general counsel to discuss how to proceed.
    – NotMe
    Sep 8, 2018 at 8:07
  • 4
    What prevents you from trying to contact the sender via phone and clarify the situation? Sep 9, 2018 at 11:29

2 Answers 2


Another alternative is to return it to the sender. Enclose it with a letter explaining that the addressee is not longer with the company, and indicating who is now responsible for their previous company related responsibilities.

The lesson to be learned here is that letters ought not to be addressed to a person, but to a title or responsibility. It would be best to "train" your customers on this topic.

Btw, "Out of sight, out of mind, right?" - I hope that you don't really mean that.

  • I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint you. Sep 8, 2018 at 15:12
  • And your parents, and yourself? Unless it is your busisness ... and, even then ... But, if that's truly how you feel, why did you even ask us? Sep 8, 2018 at 16:17
  • 1
    Best to avoid breaking the law, regardless of the presence of "blabbermouths/sneaks." Sep 13, 2018 at 22:45

Personally, I would hand it to he ex-employees manager and let them deal with it.

This is how things generally work when some leaves a company.

If the manager isn’t around and the letter is definitely addressed to the company then open it and deal with the contents (if that’s appropriate to your role). If it turns out to be personal in nature, hand it over to HR and do your best to forget about the contents.

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