Firms caught in web of net abuse at work

survey by Personnel Today and KLegal reveals that misuse of the internet is the
number one disciplinary problem facing firms today and employers are struggling
to enforce responsible use of the web at work. Quentin Reade reports

Employers need to do more to tackle misuse of the internet after research
reveals that it causes more disciplinary problems than dishonesty, violence and
health and safety breaches combined.

A survey of 212 organisations by Personnel Today and KLegal finds employers
received 358 disciplinary cases for internet and e-mail abuse last year
compared to 326 cases for all the other three categories.

The study shows most employers are aware of the problem. More than 90 per
cent of UK organisations have guidelines in place on use of the internet and 93
per cent of these claim to communicate this policy to all staff.

The study also shows that a fifth of firms now monitor employee use of the
internet on a daily basis and more than 90 per cent of these, comply with the
Data Protection Act by informing staff that their internet usage is under

Stephen Levinson, a partner at KLegal said the research reveals employers
are increasingly aware of the problem but still need to do more to avoid the
costs associated with disciplinary hearings and recruiting to fill positions of
sacked staff.

He also believes employers need to improve the way they communicate their
e-mail and internet use policies.

Levinson added: "In addition, businesses would be well advised to give
greater prominence than they do at present to the sanctions employees may face
for e-mail and internet abuse."

He advised companies to explore the possibility of investing in improved
firewalls and software to limit e-mail use and prevent staff from accessing
certain internet sites.

Just over half of respondents have software in place preventing access to
inappropriate websites and 71 per cent have firewalls to block inappropriate

One in 10 employers have a total ban on personal use of e-mail and 13 per
cent on personal use of the internet.

Almost 30 per cent of employers do not allow employees to use e-mail for
personal use during contracted working hours and 35 per cent ban employees from
using the internet at work.

Bill Dykes, HR director at Select Appointments, said his company has tried
to strike a balance between trusting staff to use the internet responsibly and
having checks in place to clamp down on individuals who abuse its usage

"Everybody (at Select) has a PC and is encouraged to use the internet.
It’s a part of their job and an important business tool. We would struggle
without it. But it’s important that everybody understands what they can and
can’t do," he said.

The survey finds that the most commonly disciplined cyber crimes are
excessive use of the internet followed by sending pornographic e-mails and
accessing pornographic websites.

Nearly two thirds of internet-related dismissals (38 out of 61) and half of
the disciplinary cases (169 out of 358) were for accessing or distributing
pornographic and sexual material.

Paul Pagliari, HR director at Scottish Water, urged companies to use
innovative methods to communicate their internet policies to staff on a daily
basis to prevent these sorts of issues becoming a problem.

Scottish Water spells out its policies as a screensaver on all staff

"We monitor for overuse, abuse, or people looking at inappropriate
sites. We get problems from time to time, but because we are clear and specific
about what is acceptable or not, we haven’t had any significant problems,"
he said.

Internet misuse survey: a media hit

Personnel Today and KLegal’s research into internet misuse at work grabbed
the headlines last week.

Channel 4 news ran a feature on the survey, which shows that
internet misuse is the number one disciplinary problem. Noel O’Reilly, editor
of Personnel Today,told viewers that employees need to help staff to draw a
distinction between acceptable behaviour at home and work.

Many national newspapers, such as The Times and Daily
Telegraph, radiostations and websites also covered the research.

Monitoring: the survey’s findings

– 20 per cent of employers monitor on a daily basis. More than 90 per cent
comply with the Data Protection Act

– 10 per cent monitor weekly

– More than 10 per cent monitor monthly

– About 12 per cent don’t 
monitor at all

– More than 90 per cent of UKorganisations have guidelines on
the use of the internet at work 93 per cent of these claim to communicate
this policy to staff

– There were 358 disciplinary cases of internet and e-mail abuse  reported by 
the 212 organisations surveyed

– 53 per cent of respondents have software preventing access to
inappropriate websites

– 71 per cent have firewalls to block inappropriate e-mails

– 60 per cent of internet dismissals and half of disciplinary
cases involved distribution of porn or 
sexual material

Source: Personnel Today/KLegal

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