No Image Available


Read more from TrainingZone

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Surfing the net might damage your career


Firms recruiting on the web are likely to find it especially hard to prevent their own staff from surfing at work, writes Jilly Welch

Millions of employees could be risking the sack by using their firm’s Internet connection for personal purposes, following a tribunal’s decision to uphold the dismissal of Lois Franxhi, an office manager, for searching the web at work for holiday deals.

According to a recent survey by NOP, two million people in the UK use the Internet at work to obtain travel information, while the same number read newspapers online. Visits to cricket web sites during the recent World Cup came mainly from the employees of City banks and major consultancies.

Unauthorised Internet surfing is costing British firms £130 million in lost time and business annually, according to e-result, a web-policing company. But employers are now becoming concerned about another, potentially more threatening, category of search. More than one million employees are now using the Internet to look for new jobs. Jobseekers spend an average of 10 minutes each day - usually between noon and 4pm - browsing job sites.

Carolyn McCall, deputy managing editor of the Guardian and the commercial director responsible for the newspaper’s online recruitment site, is watching employers’ reactions to the Franxhi case carefully.

“People are going to start getting the message to search the net - particularly for jobs - at home,” she said. The explosion of free Internet accounts offered by high-street retailers means that we will see a surge in home access to the web. But this may mean a dilution of quality applications to recruiting firms.”

A growing number of companies are taking the advice of employment lawyers and writing personal surfing limitations into policies and contracts. Asda has no formal net policy, for instance, but new recruits are now told that the e-mail system is for business use only.

The Public and Commercial Services union, which represents 240,000 civil servants, expects to be negotiating wide-ranging electronic communications policies with managements across the public sector this year. And other organisations, such as the BBC and government departments, have cracked down on Internet use after discovering obscene or non-work-related files from the web on employees’ computers.

Yet HR professionals may be on the horns of a dilemma, according to recruitment agencies, because they are using the medium to advertise posts.

“The banning of net use to scan for jobs, while openly trying to attract competitors’ staff to do that very thing, could be seen by employees as a double standard,” warned one senior recruitment consultant at a recent Recruitment Society debate.

Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters, is well aware of the of time that young people in particular spend surfing the web. “Recruiters obviously want people to have access to their job ads,” he said. “But they haven’t quite come to terms with what it means in terms of their own attitudes.”

Mike Emmott, IPD adviser on employee relations, believes that “if firms take a tough line on personal use, they can expect it to be flouted”. He recommends that personnel departments work with employees to draw up an “adult, common-sense policy. It may simply be a case of requesting discretion, and that they surf the web in the margins of the working day.”

Recruitment is the fastest-growing advertising area of the web, with an increasing number of older, non-IT staff using it to find jobs. Around half of these earn more than £30,000, and 60 per cent are qualified to at least degree level - a valuable target market, according to a survey by Yahoo.

“Trust seems to be the key,” Gilleard said. “Any employer trying to prevent someone from looking for a new job on any medium is barking up the wrong tree.”


Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!