Millions of staff in the UK now have access to the internet at work, and it seems that not all of them use it exclusively for work-related purposes. Indeed, employee misuse of the internet is becoming a growing problem for UK employers.
Surveys have found that UK employees waste valuable work time on the internet, visiting websites ranging from kung fu online to various adult sites.
The problem is further complicated by the private use of e-mail at work. While employee misuse of the internet raises questions about productivity and responsibility, misuse of e-mail raises the more serious issues of legal liability and security.
Illegal or offensive material on a company's e-mail system could leave the company liable to prosecution, regardless of who wrote it; and it is all too easy for employees to use e-mail to despatch sensitive or confidential material to their own address or to third parties.
Clearly, employers may need to consider monitoring employee use of e-mail to protect themselves. The issue of employee use of the internet, however, is more complex.
Some commentators argue that private surfing not only improves the employee's knowledge of the Web, allowing them to find their way around more quickly and efficiently, but that it also provides a useful form of relaxation and stress-relief rather like Solitaire and other games that are often built into software packages.
If you have not already done so, you should consider drawing up written guidelines to make employees aware of what is being monitored and how.
You will also need to ensure that you do not breach your employees’ privacy rights under the law.
You should follow the guidance on Monitoring at Work set out by the Information Commissioner. This can be found at: www.ico.gov