How should employers deal with employees who spend work time following sporting events on the internet?

Different employers take differing approaches to internet usage that is not work related. Some employers prohibit personal use of their internet facilities, while others allow employees to access the internet at work for personal use provided that usage is reasonable and/or during breaks. It is advisable for employers to adopt an internet policy that makes clear their approach in relation to employees' personal use of the internet, and to specify what is permitted in terms of time spent and the types of site that may be visited. In the run-up to major sporting events, such as the World Cup or Olympic Games, it may be worthwhile for employers to remind employees of their rules in relation to internet use and that those rules apply to the following of the particular event. Employers should also consider setting out their approach to the use of personal mobile devices to watch matches during working hours.

Where an employee breaches his or her employer's rules by accessing the internet to follow sporting events where personal use is not permitted, or where he or she spends an excessive amount of work time following the events, the employer should address the matter as soon as it comes to light. If the offence is minor (for example a one-off, minor breach of the internet policy) it may be sufficient for the employer to raise the matter informally with the employee. However, employers should deal with serious or persistent offenders under their disciplinary procedure.

Employers should treat any form of excessive internet use at work, whether it is reading sports coverage, researching holiday destinations or visiting shopping sites, in a consistent way, to help to avoid allegations of unfair or discriminatory treatment.