According to data released under the Freedom of Information Act, staff were given a range of disciplinary punishments for downloading material ranging from full sex images to topless photos.
Commenting on the problems that can arise for businesses, Leanne Thomas, Employment Law Solicitor with Swansea-based DJM Solicitors, said:
“Over one in four people have admitted to watching inappropriate content online in the workplace.
“When it comes to pornography, organisations are sitting on a potential time bomb. While accessing porn is not illegal – unless it is explicit – the risks associated with lasting brand damage and employee harassment litigation are significant.”
It was also revealed that one of the workers, a member of a senior management, was forced to retire after downloading images of child abuse in 2008, while in 2010 another member of staff was dismissed after a police investigation into the downloading of illegal pornography.
The Welsh Government data showed that of the 55 staff members who have been caught downloading legal pornography on their work computer in the past six years, 15 were disciplined for downloading images showing sex or full nudity.
Furthermore, three members of admin staff either resigned or left at the end of their contract, while the rest, including a senior civil servant, were given final written warnings.
In the next most serious category, which covered topless images, 31 people were disciplined. One was dismissed, three left and the rest were given warnings. Seven people were also given warnings for viewing inappropriate images.
Ms Thomas said:
“Many workplaces will have policies in place to avoid such activity, banning access to – and the passing around of – inappropriate material in the office.
“Other methods of preventing the issue are putting filters on computer equipment and having clear disciplinary procedures in place.
“However, dismissing an employee for internet misuse can be a substantial cost to the employer and, as with many employment law issues, the best cure is prevention.”
A Welsh Government spokesman said:
“We take the inappropriate use of Welsh Government IT systems very seriously and we have robust policies and disciplinary procedures in place to deal with such cases.
“We co-operate fully with the police or other agencies in any investigation relating to unlawful activities.”