Caught your employee watching porn at work?

Published April 28 2022

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In April 2022, Ex-Tory MP Neil Parish was accused and admitted to watching porn whilst in the Commons. Unsurprisingly many people were shocked by this incident and it prompted a lot of conversations about acceptable (and unacceptable) workplace behaviour.

Of all the issues you may expect your business to face an employee watching porn in the workplace is unlikely to make your top 10, but it can happen. So, here are three preventative steps you can take and how to tackle it if it does occur.


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Preventative Measures

 

  1. Check your policies – where employees have access to company devices such as computers or smartphones or use of company internet you will need to have clear rules about prohibited conduct. Check your policies set out that viewing / accessing pornographic material or material of a sexual nature is not permitted and is a potential gross misconduct offence. Not already covered in your policies or Employee Handbook? Get in touch.
  1. Communicate your rules – it’s important employees know what the rules are, not only to prevent a breach but to make it easier for you to address if they do. Clearly communicate your rules regarding expected standards of conduct and those set out in your policies, don’t forget to cover them at induction so employees are clear from the outset and remember that a periodic reminder of workplace rules can be helpful.
  1. Train your employees – Did you know an employee viewing pornography in the workplace could give rise to a claim against your business? In Moonsar v Fiveways Express Transport Ltd a female employee succeeded in claiming that she had been subject to sexual harassment amounting to direct discrimination when on three occasions male colleagues working alongside her downloaded pornographic images onto computer screens. Although she hadn’t been shown the images or complained at the time she was nearby and aware of what was going on and it had undermined her dignity. Making sure your workforce understands what discrimination and harassment are can help to protect your business by preventing issues occurring.

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Suspect Misconduct?

Unsure what to do if an employee is suspected of watching pornography in the workplace? This will usually involve starting with an investigation to establish the facts and if there is sufficient evidence following a full and fair disciplinary process to address the matter. In outline, a disciplinary process will involve:

  • Inviting the employee, in writing, to attend a disciplinary meeting and advising them of their right to be accompanied (remember to include the evidence with the invitation)
  • Holding the disciplinary meeting
  • Following the meeting, giving the employee a written outcome with a right of appeal

You can find further information about dealing with investigations and gross misconduct in our previous blogs.

What should I do if I or my staff witness somebody watching porn at work?

Remember, you should always seek advice on the facts of your situation before taking action.

Is your employee under two years of service? You may be able to deal with the matter without following the usual disciplinary process but it’s important to contact us before doing so to identify whether there are any risks in your particular situation.


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