A 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 scrutiny.
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 e-mails.
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 balanc