'Sack 'em!' - users take hard line on web abuse

You're harsh but fair, so you are...

You're harsh but fair, so you are...

Eighty per cent of silicon.com readers believe fellow employees should be fired for internet misuse. Intriguingly, however, people are much more tolerant of email abuse. These are just two of the findings from the most comprehensive look into the digital etiquette of UK companies ever conducted. The Digital Blunders survey - based on the views and experiences of 1,500 respondents - takes an in-depth look into the use of internet at work and at home. The study shows how businesses are beginning to develop draconian internet policies, some of which carry the ultimate sanction of dismissal. Surprisingly, silicon.com readers were more lenient where email is concerned, with 81 per cent claiming they had never been instructed to monitor email misuse. Barely a third thought emails should be monitored at all. Margaret Smith, ecommerce director at Legal & General, was one of the few readers who said her company had introduced an internet and email usage policy which all employees had to sign. "By making employees aware of the policy document we could sack them for abuse of communications. We have, in the past, disciplined people for excessive usage of email for non-work-related matters," she said. Legal pundits claim email misuse is the greater problem. Internet abuse is easier to monitor and control, they argue. Richard Baron, deputy head of policy at the Institute of Driectors, said: "Internet abuse is more obvious as it can be criminal, but when it comes to email abuse more companies handle the abuse informally on a case-by-case basis." Ben Goodger, a partner at London law firm Willoughby and Partners, said employees' ignorance of the legalities of email is the crux of the problem. "There is a lot of immaturity with email. It is treated as chit-chat but it is just as much a form of communication as writing a letter on company stationary," he claimed. He claimed abuse of email is far more likely to result in loss of profit or reputation for the company than a worker surfing porn sites during a lunch hour. To visit silicon.com's Digital Blunders site and find out just how wrong you can go with a simple email, visit http://www.silicon.com/digitalblunders where you will find stories like this man's: "When I was getting divorced, my now ex-wife sent me an email telling me she couldn't afford to live in our flat and therefore wanted me to buy her out. I forwarded this to a mate, adding the comment: "Fantastic, the flat is going to turn into a Grade A bachelor pad, let's start pulling cheap sluts," and unfortunately copied her in the reply." For more email confessions, visit http://www.silicon.com/digitalblunders