Can I be sacked from my job for using the company internet structure for private internet use?

Use of internet at work

Currently many jobs in the United Kingdom enable staff to have access to the internet. In some employment contexts being able to visit certain sites is something which access to be denied but in other employment staff is provided with enough trust to be able to access what they choose.

Problems with use of internet at work

There are a number of problems associated with the use of internet at work; they can be broken down into the following:

  • Downloading of files causing the network to run much slower

  • Downloading of various files increasing the risk of the network being exposed to certain viruses

  • Productivity decreasing due to the continued use of the internet by staff on social network sites

  • The risk of a breach of confidentiality due to staff posting things on various social networking sites

Can I be sacked from my job due to my internet usage?

It is unlikely for an employee to be sacked for general internet usage even if it causes one of the above mentioned problems to come into play.

Most companies will have an internet usage policy which will set out how and when staff is able to use the internet and the various punishments for breaches of the policy.

Are there likely to be gross breaches of employment contracts due to internet usage?

Recently there has been a case which has come to the public attention of a school teacher using school computer and internet facilities to post comments on an online forum.

What was the issue in this case?

The member of staff at the school was a prominent member of the British National Party (BNP) and had posted comments on the online forum referring to immigrants as “savage animals” and “filth”.

What happened in this case?

An investigation into the internet usage of the particular teacher was launched which caused him to resign from his post pending the investigation.

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For more information on:

  • What is the teaching register?
  • Will the teacher be punished for being a member of the BNP party?
  • What was the issue in this case then?
  • Were any of these sentiments ever said to any of the pupils?
  • What can be drawn from this case?
  • Would the teacher have been sacked if these comments were posted on the online forum outside of work?