Three council workers in Wales have lost their jobs for spending too long on eBay when they should have been working. BBC News reports that the trio, who worked for Neath Port Talbot Council, were spending up to two hours a day at the auction site.
Union officials have argued that the council had put "temptation in their way" by not putting a block on access to non-work sites as people can get "addicted" to some websites.
The council says that one employee was sacked and two others resigned after an investigation into the "unacceptable level of usage" by some workers of the internet for personal purposes.
Graham Jones, personnel chief at the council told BBC News: "We have a policy of allowing employees to use the internet in their own time. But we clearly don't want them to use it in council time. At the end of the day they are employed to do a job of work and not to shop online."
The Unison union – which represents the workers – claimed the council has overreacted and is demanding it changes its rules on internet access.
The council has security software in place to prevent access to block "inappropriate" sites but eBay is not listed among them, according to the BBC. Unison suggests that general internet access be limited to lunch breaks and that access be filtered at other times.
Struan Robertson, a technology lawyer with Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM, said the case serves as a useful reminder to employers to check their internet use policies. "Many employers want to allow some personal use of the internet subject to limitations," he said. "What is and is not allowed, and the consequences of misuse, should be detailed in an internet policy or a wider communications policy. These policies should also be reflected in an organisation's disciplinary policy."
"Remember that policies must be communicated to all employees, and they also need to be enforced. Turning a blind eye to policy breaches is asking for trouble."