Companies will be allowed to monitor all emails and phone calls made by their employees after the UK government yesterday granted employers greater snooping rights.

From 24 October companies will be allowed "routine access" to any business emails and phone calls made by their employees.

E-commerce minister Patricia Hewitt confirmed yesterday that the government had canned proposals to force employers to secure the consent of both senders and recipients of emails for most forms of monitoring.

Companies will now be able to monitor employees' emails and phone calls to ensure they are business- related and not personal.

Trade unions have reacted angrily, accusing the government of giving employers free rein to snoop on practically all forms of employee communication.

Union officials say they will put the Human Rights Act to the test by challenging the snooping rules.