Please Counsel Me, I am Addicted to Porn!

Most employers have a “Zero Tolerance” to the accessing of pornography on the company’s computers and IT systems. The viewing or even attempted accessing of pornography on the company’s computers is generally a dismissable first offence in an employer’s disciplinary code and procedure.

But what does an employer do when an employee admits to viewing or accessing pornography on the company’s computer but raises the defence that he is an addict?

Is the employer under these circumstances obliged to stop the disciplinary hearing and provide the employee with counselling and access to treatment as employers of alcoholics are obliged to do in terms of the Code of Good Practice: Dismissal?

The general rule that employers are obliged to counsel and provide access to treatment and rehabilitation to employees who suffer from alcoholism or substance abuse is based on the medical understanding and recognition that substance abuse is a diagnosed and treatable disease which disease results in the incapacity of the employee.

This then begs the question of whether addiction to pornography is accepted and recognised as a disorder or disease rendering the employee incapable of performing his functions normally.

Addiction to pornography is not a classified or listed mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) published by the American Psychiatric Association. The DSM-5 is an authoritative publication for psychiatric diagnoses defining and classifying mental disorders.

Addiction to pornography is also not a listed mental disorder in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) maintained by the World Health Organisation (WHO). ICD codes are used by health practitioners to record and identify health conditions.

Substance abuse including alcoholism is listed as a disorder in both the DSM-5 and ICD 10, being the latest version of the ICD.
On 25 May 2019 the WHO adopted the Eleventh Revision, ICD-11 which will come into effect on 1 January 2022. A controversial addition into the ICD-11 is Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Disorder (CSBD).

CSBD is categorised by a persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behaviour over an extended period (6 months or more) that causes marked distress or impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.

CSBD will include behaviours such as problematic pornography use, excessive preoccupation with sexual fantasies and compulsive use of prostitutes or strip clubs.

The inclusion of CSBD in the ICD-11 may one day mean that employees who are caught in the act so to speak may be able to raise the defence of suffering from a disorder. If the employee submits a report from a medial practitioner diagnosing him/her with CSBD the employer may have no option than to deal with the employee not as an offender of its rules and codes but rather as an employee who is incapacitated by his/her disorder who should be given counselling and access to treatment.

Employers have a little more than 2 years to grapple with the idea of CSBD being raised as a defence by “Men and Women who behave badly”. We may one day not only have Alcohol and Substance Abuse Policies but also Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Policies providing rules to regulate the access to and possession of pornography and other sexual urges, fantasies and behaviours in the workplace.