Email and internet abuse at work have become the biggest workplace disciplinary issues, according to a survey conducted by law firm KLegal with Personnel Today magazine.
In the last 12 months, disciplinary cases for email and internet abuse at work exceeded those for dishonesty, violence and health and safety breaches combined.
The 212 firms that participated in the survey said they had taken disciplinary action in 358 cases for email- or internet-related offences, compared to 326 forthe other three categories.
Sending pornographic emails emerged as one of the top three sackable offences - with nearly 40 per cent of disciplinary cases resulting in dismissal.
Only dishonesty (almost 100 per cent) and violence (74 per cent) received a higher ranking.
Nearly two thirds of email- or internet-related dismissals and half of the disciplinary cases were for accessing or distributing pornographic or sexual material.
But the survey also found that companies are attempting to crack down on abuses. One in five firms now monitor employee internet usage on a daily basis, almost twice the number compared with 19 months ago. Nearly 10 per cent of firms monitor staff without telling them, even though this is breaking the law.
The survey also found that employees are nearly 10 times more likely to be dismissed for sending a pornographic email than they are for sending an email that may damage the company's reputation.
Stephen Levinson, partner in employment law at KLegal, said the survey showed that efforts to deal with the problem did not appear to be working particularly well.
"Businesses would be well advised to give greater prominence than they now do to the sanctions employees will face for email and internet abuse," he said.
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