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Managing internet and email use in the workplace

The benefits of internet and email use in the workplace are undeniable; not does communication happen at the click of a button, but information can be sourced instantaneously meaning tasks can be completed quickly and efficiently. Having said that, employees do not have free reign to surf the web as they please, and restrictions should be in place to prevent employees overusing these services for non-work related activities.

In a recent case before the NSW Industrial Relations Commission[1], an employee was dismissed for breaching her employer’s code of conduct and communications policy when she stored 1200 inappropriate and pornographic emails in a "funny emails" folder. The investigation found that the folder contained emails which were “considered pornographic, graphic (violence), and generally inappropriate in nature”. A non-work-related, 23-page personal journal was also found, which breached the policy's personal use clause and ‘encroached on work time’.  

The employee adopted a ‘cavalier attitude’ towards the situation and attempted to contend that the employer’s IT system should have prevented unwelcome and

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Employers have a duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees.

This requires employers to take reasonable steps to prevent employees from suffering injuries at work. One way of fulfilling this duty is to subject employees to drug and alcohol testing and prevent those under the influence of either drugs or alcohol, from working.

It may however not always be reasonable to direct an employee to submit to a drug or alcohol test. Employers will need to be mindful of the way in which its drug and alcohol policy is implemented and applied, the method of testing, that it is anti-discriminatory in nature, that it is consistently applied and that it is appropriate to the circumstances of employment in order to avoid actions for unfair dismissal or the implementation of an ineffective policy.

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Do You Need a Mobile Devices Policy?

Smartphones have become a ubiquitous sight in public and in the workplace. IPads and tablets are similarly common now in the office. These are all examples of mobile devices, and more companies are making these devices available to their employees and allowing remote access to system servers.  Increasingly, employees have devices of their own, and expect to be able to use them at work.  Most agree that these mobile devices are an indispensable tool, and many argue that they could not imagine working or running a business without them. But few people – and perhaps fewer employers –realise  the potential hazard they hold in their hands.

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