Most Internet abuse dismissals related to porn

One in four UK companies dismiss workers for Internet misconduct, according to new figures, and often it is co-workers who inform on each other

A survey by Personnel Today and Internet filtering company Websense has revealed that nearly one in four employers have sacked staff due to Internet misuse. Sixty-nine percent of the sackings relate to pornography.

Over 500 human resources professionals responded to the survey and 43 percent reported dealing with cases of Internet misuse every month. Forty percent of complaints originated from co-workers concerned at time-wasting by colleagues on the Internet.

While the majority of dismissals were porn related, other sackings were for use of chat rooms, race hate and discriminatory sites.

"These figures show the problem of Internet and email abuse is widespread," said Sarah Lamont from employment law firm Bevan Ashford. "Employers should be very concerned about it. The time lost is shocking as far as productivity is concerned." In March, workers at car manufacturers Ford UK were given two weeks to clear Internet porn from their computers. This clampdown by Ford was outlined in an email sent to their 20,000 workers.

There have been many instances of employees being sacked for accessing or distributing porn, ranging from mobile phone network operator Orange to stockbrokers Merrill Lynch who sacked 15 members of its London staff for sending offensive material from its system.

The problem with inappropriate material in the workplace is so deep-rooted that companies need to have a combination of automated software filtering and a clear company policy that leaves workers in no doubt what is permissible while not infringing their privacy.

In Switzerland, companies deal with stricter privacy laws by using software which bounces back potentially offensive emails from workers, and sends a request for them to modify the content before it can be sent.


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