soft skill

Letters in the office – who is allowed to open business and private mail?

For the handling of incoming mail companies usually meet their own guidelines. In general, however, it can be said that “normal” mail (Infopost, catalogs, business letters, invoices, etc.) can be accepted by any employee of the company. However, this does not mean that the post office may be opened by any employee! It is difficult with special letters, such as the handover registered letter, the cash on delivery or with documents with the label “own hand”.

For these special cases, a letter of proxy can be issued. This facilitates and speeds up post processing. This can be awarded to one or more persons. Differences are:

The interior power

Prerequisite for this is a written statement. However, it must be explicitly stated that shipments that have to be hand-delivered can be handed over to the authorized representative. Forms for authorization can be obtained from Swiss Post branches.

Another possibility is the general power of attorney

In this case, the authorized representative may accept all shipments addressed to the recipient. Includes handwritten shipments as well as postal and money orders. The general power of attorney must be notarised.

What does the postal and letter secret state?

Not every letter can be opened like that!
Not every letter can be opened like that! / Photo: Imillian /

All correspondence is subject to postal and postal secrecy. This is regulated in Art. 10 of the Basic Law. The secrecy of correspondence includes closed news and documents outside the post office.

The postal secrecy protects all shipments as long as they are in the care of the post office. All employees are committed to postal secrecy.

What applies in principle to the company regarding the secrecy of correspondence?

  • It is regulated that all letters addressed to the company may be opened by authorized employees (authorized representative, secretary, etc.).
  • However, mail that is marked as personal may only be opened by the respective recipient.
  • For this delineation, the letter should indicate “personal” or “confidential”.
  • Who opens unauthorized letters violates the secrecy of letters and makes himself punishable.

Examples of the assignment of incoming mail

Example 1
If the company name is mentioned first and then the personal name , the letter may be opened . In this case, it is assumed that the specification of the name should facilitate the internal assignment and distribution.

Example GmbH
Mrs. Rabe
Poststr. 99
45456 Essen

2. Example
If the name of the person is named first and then the company, the letter may be opened . However, many companies have the internal rules that such addressed letters are considered personal and are not company post. Thus, it depends on the internal rules of management how such mail is handled.

Mrs. Rabe Beispiel
Poststr. 99
45456 Essen

3. Example
If the company name is first mentioned and subsequently “confidential”, “personal”, “personal”, etc. are named, the letter may only be opened by the recipient . Otherwise this represents a violation of the secrecy of correspondence.

Example GmbH
Ms Rabe
Poststr. 99
45456 Essen


Ms Rabe Beispiel
Poststr. 99
45456 Essen

The handling of incoming mail is usually determined individually by each company. Letters to the management should be forwarded unopened to the person concerned as they may contain sensitive data.

Additional notes such. H. (to hands), i. Fa. (In company) or c / o (care of = bei) are superfluous.

Regulations at the holiday, disease representation

What if you are sick?  Photo: Björn Wylezich /
What if you are sick? / Photo: Björn Wylezich /

In principle, the same rules apply as in normal business dealings that letters may be opened by a third person. However, if the post is provided with a confidentiality note, the opening is inadmissible. An exception is the express permission of the recipient, which should be in writing.

Which mail may the boss or supervisor open?

Any mail other than this is marked with a confidentiality note. If the note confidential, personal, etc. ignored by the boss or supervisor, this violates the secrecy of correspondence. This also threatens the supervisor a criminal consequence.

In-house regulations for incoming mail

In most companies, the incoming mail is pre-sorted by a proxy, the secretariat or the post office, and distributed to the appropriate employee or placed on his desk . If there are no internal rules, it often happens that post is opened out of ignorance. So that sensitive information or personal mail is not read by unauthorized persons, it is important to set up clear internal rules for the handling of incoming mail.

These rules should be in writing and apply uniformly to the whole company. It can be regulated, for example:
Which post office may be opened and which is to be forwarded unopened to the recipient.

Absence handling arrangements should ideally be made before departure. Above all, it should be clarified which mail must be regarded as personal, even if it does not contain a confidentiality note (post to the management, personnel department, works council, letters from banks, etc.).

What consequences can violating the secrecy of the letter entail?

Letter secret injured
If the letter secret is violated, this can be punished after an ad with a fine or imprisonment. / Photo: vege /

Any person not authorized to open a post is liable to prosecution. If the letter secret is violated, this can be punished with a fine or imprisonment.
The prerequisite for this is usually the infringement of the secrecy of the letter.

In principle, only persons should open incoming mail, which are authorized to do so. Authorized persons are determined in companies by the management or an authorized officer. Furthermore, it is important that the address is scrutinized (see the examples above) so as not to open any letters without authorization. In addition, the company-internal regulation for dealing with incoming mail should also be included. In case of ambiguity, the supervisor should be asked how to handle the document.

Decline in correspondence, increase in digital mail delivery

According to a model calculation by the Committee for Education, Research and Technology, no positive development will take place on the German letter market until 2020.
The largest decline is expected in the areas of business and private mail (1.8% to 4.8%). The delivery of advertising and press mail will decrease further, with values ​​ranging from 0.4 to 3.2%.

In 2008, the world’s letter volume amounted to 434 billion letters, while in 2011 it has already dropped by 16% to 364 billion letters.
For postal companies, this change means a need for action, as business areas have to be removed and rebuilt. One should think of delivery and pick-up services, flexible delivery locations and changes to delivery times. Delivery services and postal operators need to think about expanding their services. This includes, for example, the expansion of services for elderly and dependent people. The model in this area is the French post office with the delivery of medicines (“Portage de Medicaments”) or “Bonjour Facteur!”.

The advances in modern technology allow companies, government agencies and private individuals to transmit data in the form of e-mails faster and more flexibly. Due to the ongoing security measures, sensitive data can also be transmitted with a high degree of security.

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