Employees inappropriate web access – grounds for dismissal?

Question: I have a suspicion that one of my employees is accessing inappropriate websites on their computer.  Is this grounds for dismissing him?

Answer: Most companies now provide some level of internet access to their employees for business purposes.  It would be normal practice for employees to have access to the internet for some matters not directly related to the business e.g. personal banking online.  However employers need to recognise that excessive web surfing during working hours can lead to a significant loss of productivity.

There have been numerous cases in relation to employee misuse of the internet and it is essential that as an employer you have an internet usage policy which is properly incorporated into the terms and conditions of employment.

You should also look at technical safeguards which may complement any legal policies and it would also be important that access to computers by employees is monitored so as to ensure that company policies are being maintained.

It is unlikely that the use of the internet for unauthorised purposes will amount to a sufficient reason for dismissing an employee without notice and prior warning in the absence of a clear written statement to this effect in the company’s policy.  An exception to this perhaps would be a situation where an employee was using the company’s facilities to download obscene material but it will very much depend on the circumstances.

The information contained in this article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice.  Specific legal advice should be sought on any particular matter.

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