Hundreds of employees have been sacked or disciplined for spending too much time on social networking sites at work, according to new research.
It found that more than 1,700 people working for 65 public institutions have been dismissed or reprimanded for internet or email misuse in the past three years.
The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, show that bosses are increasingly taking a hard line against staff who abuse the internet during office hours.
Common offences include excessive internet use, viewing inappropriate material online such as pornography and forwarding offensive emails to friends.
Government departments emerged as some of the most unforgiving places to work.
But the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has criticised employers who have imposed blanket bans, saying that staff should be allowed to use the internet during lunch breaks.
It's unreasonable for employers to try to stop their staff from having a life outside work just because they can’t get their heads around the technology.
It is very important that staff familiarise the policy when they start a new job.
Employers do have grounds for sacking or disciplining employees who blatantly abuse the internet or email at work.
People need to be very careful about what sites they are looking at and what kind of emails they are sending because if they are caught sending or reading offensive material the consequences could be very serious.