The temptation is simply too much for many
employees with access to the internet, to catch up with old friends,
to check how their bid on Ebay is doing or to select their fantasy
Copyright 2006 - 2010 Taylors Solicitors
Cyberslacking continues to dominate the news as employers face an
increasing battle, trying to curb their employees time-wasting web
surfing and emailing their friends.
There is no doubt that the problem can have a significant impact on
efficiency and production – indeed the estimated cost to UK
employers is over £1.5bn and it’s increasing yearly.
How many times do you walk in to the office to find a worker busily
clicking away on their mouse or frantically typing – yet one look at
the bottom of the screen often reveals minimised personal email
messages or web pages.
The dramatic growth of online community websites attract employees
to surf more and for longer periods of time. Take for example the
sites “Facebook” (with 34m users worldwide and now the tenth most
popular website in the world) and “Myspace” (200m users worldwide
and 230,000 new users every day) – their incredible popularity has
resulted in many employers prohibiting employees from visiting these
sites due to the amount of time spent on them when they should be
working. In fact, some employees have admitted spending up to 5 or 6
hours a day on such sites and the impact this can have on a work
force cannot be underestimated. In the face of such action from
employers, the TUC has recently urged employers to continue to allow
their employees to use Facebook but only whilst on breaks or during
the lunch hour rather than introducing a complete ban.
So What Should You Do?
It is a difficult balance to strike for employers – trusting
employees to use the internet for personal reasons on breaks only is
ideal but not always that simple to administer.
The fact of the matter is that the computer system is the employer’s
property and if you choose you can impose a complete ban on using
the computer systems for anything other than business use including
during breaks. The advantage is that your employees know what is
allowed and what isn’t – whilst the disadvantage is that employees
resent such an inflexible approach which in turn can reduce morale
and increase absence issues and inefficiency.
Most employers allow use of the computer systems during recognised
breaks, but this can become difficult to monitor and control –
especially when there are no set time for breaks/lunch. It is
however perhaps the best solution as long as clear rules are in
Be conscious however, that as workers work longer hours than ever
the less leisure time they have to sort out personal/family affairs
which can often be dealt with over the internet or by email. The
knowledge that they can complete everyday tasks online during breaks
in work is likely to reduce absenteeism and increase efficiency.
Whatever your stance the key is to have a clear written Email and
Internet Policy setting out clear boundaries as to what is
acceptable and what is not. This can cover when the systems can be
used for personal use, what websites are forbidden, what language or
content should be used or avoided in emails, avoidance of
There should also be reference to the disciplinary sanctions that
may be imposed as a result of breaching the policy and, if you
intend to monitor emails or internet use, details as to how that
monitoring will take place. Remember the Human Rights Act 1998 may
give protection to workers in relation to their right to privacy.
Modern technology has created a host of issues for employers to deal
with and it is crucial that you have a detailed policy in place
tailored to your specific business needs.