Insurance group Cornhill has stepped up a corporate security policy to ensure that e-mail is properly used for business reasons.
The company wants to prevent corporate e-mail systems being used as a vehicle for disseminating non-business-related material, and is prepared to use disciplinary measures to enforce it.
The company has insisted it is not being a killjoy and denied it would summarily dismiss staff found guilty of receiving or distributing inappropriate material.
A spokesman agreed staff could do little about receiving unsolicited material, and denied that the company had instituted a specific crackdown. He agreed, though, that messages sent out by staff asking friends not to send jokes, pictures or movies to their work was probably intended to protect themselves against questions about material they received.
"We are not against seeing amusing material in e-mails. But we do believe that corporate e-mail systems should be business-focused and that staff will be held liable for any offensive material found to originate from their systems," he said.
Cornhill's policy follows a trend started in the US where companies monitor e-mail usage to ensure they are covered against any offensive material which emanates from their systems. In 1995, Chevron paid $2.2m to four female employees to settle a suit in which the women claimed they were sexually harassed because of jokes sent through the company's e-mail system.