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Dismissal fair for excessive use of internet for personal purposes during work time

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

In Hall v Weightmans LLP, during an interview to investigate why H had allegedly brought her daughter and grandchildren to the firms premises to share lunch and then leaving them on site unaccompanied, H alleged she had been working on her computer whilst her family had been present. The report showed that H had been online, but not for work purposes, along with a further period of 1.25 hours earlier in the day when she was on duty and browsing the internet for personal reasons. A further investigation of her internet history for the whole month demonstrated a consistently high usage for non-work related searches across most working days at a level which was unacceptable, as evidenced by 117 pages of data showing hundreds of entries recording access to shopping/airline web sites such as Evans, Shoeaholic, Ryan air, Easyjet and Debenhams. An ET found H’s dismissal to be fair. The employer had clear hard evidence of H’s internet usage, which was at odds with her explanation. In addition, the tenor of H’s explanations had appeared to be dishonest, and so there had been a loss of trust in her. It was therefore reasonable to believe that her conduct amounted to gross misconduct for which the employer was entitled to dismiss her summarily. The dismissal procedure followed was fair, complied with ACAS guidelines and was within the range of reasonable responses.

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