Net policy relies on top role models

Senior managers’ commitment is essential to introducing an e-mail and
Internet policy, the conference heard.

Top-level cooperation is vital as an example to staff, Eversheds lawyer
Debbie Jones said. But she warned that it is a difficult task keeping tabs on
what senior managers are downloading or sending from behind their closed office
door, and they might not accept the same restrictions apply to them as other
staff.

"If you are asking people to restrict their use of the Internet or
e-mail but you have senior people pulling down jokes, or worse, and sending
them around the building, the example to the staff will not be there," she
said.

She suggested the best way to get them on board is to ask them to act as
role models.

Companies without an e-mail and Internet policy are leaving themselves open
to a myriad of claims, such as sexual and racial harassment, defamation, breach
of confidentiality and breach of contract, delegates were told.

Companies could be breaching the Data Protection Act if personal information
is not secure and the Obscene Publications Act if pornography is downloaded.

"E-mail and the Internet is merely another form of communication and
companies need to extend their harassment policies to include them," said
lawyer Vanessa Chamberlain.

Jones added that if e-mails are to be monitored, then staff must be told.
"Tribunals take a dim view of monitoring but if you are honest about it
then you are in a strong position," she said.

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