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THE QUESTION - Internet abuse in the office

NEWS

This week, Ford launched an unprecedented crackdown on e-mail and internet abuse.

Employees have a twoweek 'amnesty', after which time possession or distribution of 'jokes or images of an offensive nature' will result in on the spot dismissal.

Should this apply in construction?

As our company operates an acceptable computer usage policy, we have to steer well clear of offensive material. However, the occasional joke here and there does help to break up the day and take your mind off work for a few moments. They can also provide some light relief which leaves you ready to tackle that next 'little' job that your boss lands on your desk.

David Lavin, 29, engineer, Tewkesbury I'd like to think that pornographic, racist, sexist, homophobic and other offensive material is not passed around the computers of engineering consultancy firms or indeed any firms within the construction sector. Such material is probably illegal anyway, aside from being totally unacceptable in a modern work environment. The key here is workplace culture.

All members of staff have a responsibility to demonstrate that such material is completely beyond the pale by cracking down hard on those who send it out.

Andy Walker, communications director, London Offensive material should be controlled, but sacking without an inquiry is equally in breach of an employee's human rights and would open the door to malicious planting of files on another person's computer (there has been a long running dispute in Ayr about material found on the computer used by a local councillor). I would like to think it would not happen where I work, but maybe I am naive.

John Park, senior engineer, Glasgow E-mail usage rules here are pretty clear - no porn, no smut, no humour, no game links, no adult material, no politically incorrect items, no mother-in-law truths and no unexposed body parts. But wait, it's just a bad dream. Phew. What a sad world that office would have been to inhabit.

Dudley, 54, performance manager, Exeter The key word is offensive. There might be some debate as to what is offensive and what isn't but, once this is determined, get rid of it. There is no room for jokes or material that does give offence in the workplace, and zero tolerance to it is the right approach.

Jim Towers, 50, transport planning officer, Stirling E-mail is just another form of communication. If a joke would be considered offensive if it were told in the office, then it is going to be offensive if sent by e-mail. Firms obviously shouldn't stop people telling jokes in the office, and normally you wouldn't be fired for telling a dirty joke, at least not first time round. Downloading porn is slightly different because you are using company equipment to do it, and employers are justified in wanting to keep porn out of the office. If people want to do that sort of thing, they should do it at home.

George Tedbury, 57, consultant, Hong Kong

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