Fair gross misconduct dismissal – internet misuse

A facilities assistant was fairly dismissed after an investigation revealed her level of non-business related internet use was “substantial”, an employment tribunal has ruled.
The tribunal found that a facilities assistant regularly abused use of her internet while at work, which included online shopping.
An investigation was undertaken of the employee’s usage over a month and showed consistently high use for non-work related searches across most working days. The tribunal was presented with 117 pages of data, which showed hundreds of entries recording access to shopping websites including Evans, Shoeaholics, Ryanair, easyJet and Debenhams.
The employee said she may have “briefly” looked at a site then left it open while working.
She was dismissed without notice for gross misconduct due to the “substantial” level of non-business related internet usage because it “showed contempt for the trust placed” in the employee.
Where employees do have access to the internet at work, employers should have a policy setting out whether they can use it for personal reasons, what sites they shouldn’t access and whether personal access should be limited to breaks. Employers should also have a policy on monitoring internet usage, which should be highlighted in the staff handbook.
This case was successful because a sound investigation was carried out and the employee was provided with an opportunity to review the evidence against her – the most fundamentally important aspect of any disciplinary.

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