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Recession
battered employers are being urged to crack down on the devastating impact to
staff productivity of internet misuse at work. Law firm Mace & Jones made
its remarks after teenage office worker Kimberley Swann was sacked last week
from her job as an office administrator in Essex after branding it “boring” on
Facebook. The firms employment law partner Mark Hatfield said the case came as “no
surprise” and advised that many employers are taking  a firm line on the
internet considering  it  a “silent time killer” of epidemic
proportions.

“Employers
are not prepared to tolerate misuse of the internet generally but especially in
the current climate,” said employment law partner Mark Hatfield. “With
businesses struggling and redundancies rife every job and every hour counts. Staff
who idle away on the internet are wasting valuable time which should be
being deployed to maintain company efficiency and productivity. To enforce
proper IT use, it is critical staff are told exactly what the company internet
policy is so no-one is in any doubt about its importance and what the
punishments are”.

Mr Hatfield
said the problem is not isolated to junior staff and reported he has advised
one firm on disciplining a senior member of staff who was misusing the internet
by playing online computer games. “Staff can be allowed time during breaks
to surf the net and send emails to friends,” he said. “But employers need to
ensure staff members are not sharing sensitive or embarrassing company
information, as happened with the case in Essex on the internet.  It is
worth noting, for example, that Facebook has privacy settings which people should
be made aware of. But Facebook seems especially damaging to
productivity because it encourages people, who work together or nearby, to
start communicating with each other instead of getting on with the job.” Mr
Hatfield further urged employers to take a firm line on email misuse to avoid
potential discrimination and other liabilities.

“Many round
robin emails are circulating which are highly offensive,” he said. “Circulating
them via email within the office and to friends and associates outside the office
could cause severe embarrassment for the organisation. There have already been
a number of high profile cases. Again the best course of action is to make it
clear what the company rules are in a written policy.” Many major employers
have taken a tough line on the internet including Lloyds TSB, Goldman Sachs and
Credit Suisse which have all banned Facebook. The Daily Telegraph has reported that 1.8m Britons using the site
at least once a month.



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