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Net 'misuse' sackings on the rise

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A quarter of UK companies have dismissed employees for Internet misconduct with the majority of sackings for online porn, according to a survey released today by Websens, the Internet censorware outfit.

The survey - conducted among 544 human resources (HR) managers and officers from some of Britain's largest corporations, employing an average of 2,500 people - found that 72 per cent of UK firms have dealt with Internet misuse in the workplace. In addition, 69 per cent of all dismissals were associated with online pornography.

After pornography, unauthorised use of Web chat rooms (26 per cent) and personal e-mail browsing (23 per cent) were the second and third most-frequent complaints brought to the attention of the Human Remains department, respectively. Forty per cent of all complaints were brought to HR by co-workers unhappy with their colleagues wasting time on the Internet.

According to the survey (which was co-sponsored by Personnel Today magazine, HR managers get involved with an average of one complaint per month, yet most prefer to deal with the problem by having a "quiet word" with the person in question (56 percent), followed by a verbal warning (29 percent). Nearly a quarter (23 percent) resort to dismissing the employee.

Dismissing an employee can cost a firm a packet in recruiting replacement staff, negative publicity and damage to morale. All this can be avoided by putting in place an effective Internet access policy with appropriate software tools, Websense suggests. They would, wouldn't they?

Websense also found that HR managers believe that 20 minutes a day for personal Internet surfing is a "fair and acceptable amount of time", but that workers are more likely to spend an average of 30 minutes a day in surfing their favourite sites.

However, respondents also noted that they believe the average time employees spend doing personal surfing is actually closer to 30 minutes a day, with people in their own offices among the worst offenders. ®

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