Last week saw three Welsh council workers lose their jobs for spending a 'significant amount of time' on the internet.

Birmingham City Council, no doubt still reeling from the recently leaked sick pay figures, might consider Neath Port Talbot Council lucky that their employees were actually at work.

But cyber-skiving is by no means the preserve of the public sector. Apparently, the UK's Gross National Product is currently under threat from Facebook. Then we have the eBay traders, the e-shoppers and those addicted to online social networking, sports portals and YouTube.

Union officials have blamed bosses for 'putting temptation in their way' by allowing access to the internet in the first place!

However, I must point out to them that internet access is quite useful for work too!

The common solution for concerned bosses is to block access to sites that are clearly not work related, or monitor usage. Employers need note however - if you are electronically spying on your staff, you're legally obliged to tell them.

A rather enlightened spokesman for Neath Port Talbot Council pointed out that giving council employees internet access benefited them too by making them more IT literate. And, of course, allowing staff to manage online tasks such as banking and shopping in their lunch hours helps keep a healthy work-life balance. Some advocates would go further and imply that net access is almost a human right, given that it is all but essential in order to function in today's society.

More pragmatically, most employers would agree that staff receiving personal emails at work is preferable to them receiving personal phone calls.

The problem is that the modern broadband web now offers a great entertainment experience. Many of us will spend our evening online rather than in front of the television. And there is now so much video content online that having a PC on your desk is a good as having a TV in your office.

So-called cyber-skiving isn't a new phenomenon, but has reached epic proportions thanks to social networking.

Our old friend, the 'recent poll', this time carried out by security company Sophos, found that 43 per cent of employees interviewed were now unable to access the Facebook site, while another seven per cent could access it only with restrictions.

Of the half who could access the social networking site, eight per cent stated that the access was allowed because their company feared an employee backlash if it was stopped.

Furthermore, no matter how good you think your firewall is, there are dozens of ways to access blocked websites indirectly. You don't really want to get into a technology war with your more IT literate staff.

In any case, seeking an IT solution to the problem may not be the best way to nurture good employee relations.

Trust can often be repaid with diligent conscientious working behaviour - call me an idealist if you like!

* Chris is head of digital at WAA ( Email