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Seven strategies to combat email and Internet abuse in your company

by , 20 June 2013
Your communication systems are central to the effectiveness of your business, but the use of the Internet has become a huge problem, with many employees abusing this business tool. The potential consequences for you, the employer, are dire! It could cost you thousands of rand in lost working time, legal expenses and damaged electronic systems. Here are seven effective strategies you can use to combat email and Internet abuse in your company, while still respecting your employee's rights.

According to The Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service, South Africa's privacy laws can be a nightmare for you as they give your employees the right to privacy of communication and job applicants the right to privacy of information.

But the big question is: Do YOU have any rights?

The answer is: Yes, you can protect the vulnerability of your business communication systems as long as you still respect your employees' rights to privacy.

Why would you want to control email and Internet use in your company

You can do this by implementing controls that'll help you combat Internet abuse in your company. This is crucial because failure to implement these controls means your employees might:

  • Waste working time surfing the Internet or participating in chat rooms or news groups.
  • Abuse your email facilities for private purposes
  • Hack into your confidential files
  • Email your confidential information as a means of perpetrating industrial espionage
  • Make defamatory statements via your email system leading to serious legal action, which could cost you thousands of rend in damages.

So how do you put an end to this abuse?

Put an end to email and Internet abuse in your company using these seven tips

Tip#1: Install access control devices on your computer systems to limit employee access to the minimum necessary for business needs. This includes the installation of passwords for accessing your email system and blockades against access to the Internet.

Also, those employees who need access to the Internet for business purposes can be limited to time periods on the net.

Tip#2: Warn employees in writing that your monitoring systems are in place.

Tip#3: Ensure that every employee receives a copy of your communications policy and understands it fully. In addition, ensure all employees sign confirmation that they've received and understood your rules and warnings.

Tip#4: Ensure that the policies are applied consistently. Be warned that, if Internet abuse is widespread in your company, the dismissal of a single offender could be viewed as unfair. This is because the employee was only doing what was the norm in the company. To allow a widespread practice on the one hand and then to dismiss only one employee can be seen as unfair discrimination.

On the other hand, just because abuse has happened in the past, you don't have to allow it to continue simply because of a common practice.

Tip#5: Ask your computer expert to incorporate a consent notice into your computer start-up system. A special computer access box or screen will appear on your employee's computer monitor.

Tip#6: Include a disclaimer with every email sent out. The disclaimer should include the following wording:

'This communication does not necessarily reflect the views or intentions of the owner of the computer, network or electronic system from which the communication was sent. Recipients should therefore, before assuming the source of the contents of this communication, check the source of the content of the communication and the sender's authority to write or transmit it.'

Tip#7: Include in your disciplinary code, offences such as the following:

  • Taking part in any non-business activities during normal office hours, without express permission.
  • Use of company equipment or systems for non business purposes without express permission.
  • Accessing or attempting to access confidential company files or data without authorisation.
  • Divulging, or communicating confidential information.

(Remember, your disciplinary code is a separate document to the communications policy and its rules reinforce the provisions of your communications policy.)

There you have it. Use these strategies to combat email and Internet abuse in your company, while still respecting your employee's rights.

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