Almost a third of staff in the UK are using their office email accounts to send sexist, racist, pornographic or politically sensitive information, new research has discovered.
Around 30 per cent of respondents to the NOP email ethics survey, commissioned by internet filtering company SurfControl, admitted to sending such emails while at work.
SurfControl has claimed that the content of such emails could pose a major problem for companies.
"Email can be a real and substantial liability for business," explained Stephen Ollerenshaw, an IT lawyer at Wragge & Co. "It is a form of communication that seems to tempt people into making informal and unguarded statements that they would not write in hard copy."
NOP interviewed 800 white collar workers in London, Leeds, Manchester, Cardiff, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Liverpool.
Workers in London and Manchester sent the most offensive and politically fuelled emails, with 36 per cent admitting to sending racist, sexist or pornographic material. While just 18 per cent of staff in Liverpool admitted to improper use of email systems.
Londoners were also the worst offenders when it came to using email as a political tool, such as highlighting colleagues' mistakes.
"It is clear that there needs to be a real change in culture within the UK, starting with businesses educating employees that email is not a guise to get away with unacceptable behaviour nor a device for political purposes," insisted SurfControl founder and chief executive Steve Purdham.
Jonathan Armstrong, ecommerce lawyer at Eversheds, said: "Education is the key. An increasing amount of companies are good at the dictatorial approach by using the 'big stick' threat of the sack.
"But they also need to explain the danger that networks are under and how everyone should work together to defend the company."
At the beginning of last year, staff email became a hot topic after a saucy email exchange between Claire Swire and Bradley Chait was forwarded around the world, making Swire notorious and landing Chait in trouble with his employer, solicitors Norton Rose.
In October, two Liverpool council workers were suspended after using council-owned computers to send 150 flirty emails to each other in just seven days, and insurance group Royal & Sun Alliance suspended 40 employees from its Liverpool office after they accidentally emailed a smutty image to a director.
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