The average broker employee spends 72 minutes surfing the internet and sends 16 personal emails a day from work, according to a survey.

Employment law firm Peninsula found that email abuse and personal internet use accounts for almost 50% of the total cost of running brokers' online systems.

But, despite the financial imposition, only 21% of brokers said they had workplace policies that had guidelines for internet usage, with 69% planning to introduce such policies in the next 12 months. Almost 90% of brokers polled said it was acceptable for employees to use the internet during lunch breaks only.

Peninsula managing director Peter Done said that all brokers should stipulate clear guidelines for email and internet use. "Employers can also monitor emails, providing that it is established within workplace policies,"he said.

Almost 60% of brokers said their employees had downloaded illegal software and more than 80% said that dealing with computer viruses was costly to their businesses.