n South African Journal of Labour Relations - A fresh perspective on South African law relating to the risks posed to employers when employees abuse the internet

Volume 37, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0379-8410
  • E-ISSN: 2520-3223



The use of the internet in the workplace is an indispensable tool for many businesses in South Africa. However, misuse of the internet by employees poses substantial risks to employers-including potential civil and criminal liability. The purpose of this paper is to set out the potential risks faced by employers who fail to adequately monitor and control employees' misuse of workplace internet facilities, and to consider whether there are any restrictions on an employer's rights to do so. The risks faced by employers who do not properly manage their employees' use of workplace internet facilities are enormous. They have not been fully explored in the existing literature.

There are multiple important reasons for an employer to monitor and control employees' use of workplace internet facilities. Some of these reasons are to prevent internet abuse, defamation, sexual harassment, discrimination and decreased productivity. The law places no significant restrictions on the employer's right to do so for legitimate purposes. In certain circumstances, the employer has a legal duty to monitor and control employees' use of internet facilities, so to avoid civil and/or criminal liability.
Employers who fail to manage employees' access to workplace internet facilities appropriately expose themselves to significant risk, such as liability for civil claims or criminal conduct.
This study is important, as it shows that employers must manage workplace internet access, or risk potential civil and/or criminal liability, and/or other negative consequences. However, the methods used must not be unduly intrusive and/or reduce employee productivity, and must comply with relevant legislation. This paper provides a complete assessment of the risks an employer is faced with by not monitoring his/her employees' use of workplace internet access, as well as recommendations for doing so in compliance with relevant legislation and in a fair manner.

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