25th Feb 2020

Is personal internet use a dismissal offence?

An Employment Tribunal has recently found in favour of a law firm who sacked an employee over internet usage.

The employee (Mrs Hall) had worked for law firm Weightmans for over 20 years.  Matters came to a head when Mrs Hall brought three members of her family onto company premises during her lunch break and left them unattended. 

Mrs Hall was asked to attend a meeting to discuss the incident at which she alleged she was working on her computer.  Weightmans subsequently checked her computer which confirmed she had been logged onto it during the relevant time – but not for work!  Further investigations revealed Mrs Hall would frequently use the company computer to access various retail websites for non-work purposes.

A subsequent meeting was arranged between Mrs Hall and Weightmans but the day before Mrs Hall was involved in an altercation with a colleague.  Weightmans subsequently dismissed Mrs Hall for gross misconduct which was upheld during an internal appeal.

Mrs Hall subsequently brought a claim for unfair dismissal against Weightmans.  The Employment Tribunal, finding in favour of Weightmans, said their handling of the situation, at least at appeal ‘was text book’.

For more information on the best practice for disciplinary procedures speak with Mike Patterson, Director and Employment Law Specialist. 

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