Web addiction ‘a reality’ employers are warned

UK employers have been told that company Internet policies should include a
warning about the addictive potential of the World Wide Web.

The advice comes in the wake of a ruling in the US recognising
"Internet Addictive Disorder" – when using the Internet becomes a
compulsion – as a disability.

Employment lawyer Martin Hopkins told delegates at last week’s Eversheds
Employers’ Convention in Leeds that although attempts to hold employers
responsible for causing the disability have so far failed, it is just a matter
of time before someone wins a case. The cases brought so far have been settled
out of court.

"Internet addiction is a reality and within two years this will be a
substantial issue for employers in Britain," he said. "As part of an
Internet policy HR should explain to staff that it does lend itself to
compulsive behaviour."

He said forewarning staff will make it hard for them to pin the blame on
employers if they do become addicted.

The risk of addiction, which is highest among staff such as programmers and
IT support staff, was just one of the dangers explored in the conference,
entitled "Meeting the Challenge of the Internet Age".

Another growing risk is cyber-venting, where staff vent their anger about
their jobs and employers on Internet bulletin boards. These can damage
employers’ reputations and deter potential recruits.

Ford was forced to go to court to deal with the problem after a disgruntled
ex-employee posted confidential information about new products on one of the
sites.

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