A fifth of companies could be breaking the law by monitoring
employees’ e-mails without their consent or knowledge. A survey by law firm
KLegal has found that many firms are risking legal action by checking on staff
e-mail without informing them.
More than 100 instances of disciplinary action or dismissal
for downloading porn from the Internet were reported by the 200 firms that
responded to the survey.
Employers are 40 per cent more likely to dismiss staff for
downloading porn than for sending offensive or defamatory e-mails.
More than 80 per cent of firms have a policy governing the
use of e-mail and the Net, based on “reasonable” levels of personal use.
Thirty per cent of firms allow only senior executives and
middle management to use the Internet.
Stephen Levinson, head of employment law (UK) at KLegal,
said, “Recent increases in regulation have created uncertainty about how to
manage employee use of the Internet and e-mail. It is vital that companies get
this area right.
“Yet UK companies are adopting a far from uniform approach.
On disciplinary matters they appear to be making a curious distinction between
downloading pornography and sending offensive e-mails.”
By Ben Willmott