The soaring popularity of online Christmas shopping could cost British businesses more than £7bn, experts have warned.
Online sales are set to hit £9bn this Christmas after more than two million people took up shopping on the internet in the past 12 months.
Now employment law experts have warned that the cost to British business could be huge.
“More and more people are turning to the internet either to buy presents or to do a little window shopping,” said Peter Mooney, a spokesman at Employment Law Advisory Services (ELAS).
“But for many employers, every hour a member of staff spends looking for Christmas presents online is an hour they should have spent working.
“Even using rather conservative estimates, that could cost UK businesses billions between now and 25 December.”
Working on an average of half an hour a day spent shopping online and an average hourly wage of £12.50, ELAS estimates UK employers could stand to lose almost £1bn a week in lost working time.
With eight working weeks to go before Christmas, that could amount to almost £7.25bn in lost time.
To combat the problem, Mooney said employers needed to act now – weeks before their workers' shopping begins in earnest – by setting out a specific internet policy.
“By outlining what is and is not acceptable during work time, employers not only remind their staff not to abuse work systems, but give themselves a solid basis on which to take action whenever anyone oversteps the mark,” said Mooney.
“Without that, not only do bosses face losing a lot of time to shopping, they could even come unstuck for taking excessive action.”