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Prestige News

There are numerous issues facing employers regarding employees online profiles on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.  How can your HR function manage the impact of this phenomenon?
The recent press have been featuring some high profile examples of the some of the issues associated with social networking sites
•    footballers and cricketers using Twitter to air their views about employers
•    wife of MI6 chief, detailing personal information and address on Facebook are just 2 examples!
Social media has changed the way that we communicate theres no doubt!  
It provides a fantastic platform to connect with people and share information and most of all , keep current with everyone's activites - but this blurring of the lines between private and public space is the cause of the problem!!

Social Media is infiltrating the corporate world.  
In the current business environment where companies are operating with reduced budgets, social networking websites offer

    * a cost effective tool for teams to stay connected,
    * for businesses to promote their products and services
    * for HR Professionals to creatively optimise recruiting and other critical HR functions

    * they have the capacity to threaten existing jobs,
    * threaten future career and job offers
    * threaten personal safety
    * threaten corporate reputations
    * provide opportunities to contravene copyright and other laws.  

Organisations, SMES, Businesses and indiviuals all have a role to play in managing the impact of social networking.

Reputational damage

Recent HR stories are showing that even innocent exchanges on wall postings on Facebook could lead to problems!  
    * a breach of contractual obligations e.g. disclosing confidential information about a company's
      business or its clients.   This could clearly have an adverse effect so an employer
      should investigate any allegations of this nature with a view to taking disciplinary action.
    * An employee who makes derogatory comments about their work, or their colleagues, on their profile
      could face disciplinary action as well as possible defamation or libel actions, not to mention the
      potential damage to the company's public image. Employers should consider carefully the type of
      conduct that warrants disciplinary action and make this clear to employees.
PLEASE NOTE: "The way an employee behaves in their personal life may not be how their employer would like them to behave but, provided it does not impact their work or the company's reputation, then any disciplinary action would be inappropriate and any dismissal as a result could lead to a claim for unfair dismissal.  So not everything an employee posts on their social networking site should have an impact on their employment." says Paul Reeves of Stephenson Harwood law firm.

Here at Prestige Employment Solutions ltd we have spoken with many SME's regarding this very issue!  The simplest thing to do is to establish a Social Media Policy for your staff - present guidelines for employees on Social Networking, especially if you are encouraging its use in the promotion of your business.  For further information on a Social Media Policy or Disciplinary of Staff regarding Social Networking abuse, click here  to contact one of the Employment Specialists.
Bullying and harassment
 Paul Reevers also confirmed that "The ability to join work groups on networking sites creates the opportunity for 'banter' between colleagues. In extreme cases, this could lead to a complaint of bullying or harassment for which an employer may be vicariously liable for the actions of its employees, so complaints must be treated seriously and dealt with promptly.  Employers need to be alert to these issues and the potential risks they pose."
Managing employer access when recruiting
Over the last year, here at Prestige Employment Solutions we have come across some employers who have viewed social networking sites as an opportunity to vet job applicants for their suitability!

We have got into many debates on this one!  Rest assured...this can be a risky tactic for employers.  
With so much personal information available on these sites from age, sex, sexual orientation, religion, race, pregnancy, disability etc etc, employers are open to potential discrimination claims.

If an unsuccessful applicant discovers that their profile has been accessed as part of the recruitment process they could allege tthat the information on their profile played a part in the decision to reject them!
While the company may have rejected them for a completely unrelated and fair reason, the existence of this information, which would be discloseable in litigation, will provide an additional hurdle to overcome in defending any claim. If employers do use this as a recruitment tool, then it is advisable to have a paper-trail setting out why a candidate was unsuccessful.  Please click here to contact one of the Consultants at Prestige for more information on this and the adviseable process you should follow.
Managing employee access
Paul goes on to advise...
"In light of the issues posed by social networking sites, many employers have considered preventing access to such sites or monitoring employees' use. Each of these options presents its own issues and, despite the potential risks, these sites can be useful for building business networks - LinkedIn and Plaxo are designed for professional business relationships. Restricted use could, therefore, be preferable to a total ban.
In addition, employees could see a total ban as an overreaction by employers to what is an increasingly common form of communication. Banning staff from using the sites could lower morale, especially in industries where long hours are common and access for reasonable periods is used as a break from work.
To manage this issue, employers should consider monitoring employee's use to ensure it is being used appropriately. Recently, an employee who was claiming to be sick updated his Facebook page with the fact that he was absent due to a hangover. The employer used this as evidence against him in a disciplinary process.
Employers should have an internet usage policy in place to monitor employees in order to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998. Public bodies must also factor in the Human Rights Act 1998, in particular article 8: the right to respect for private and family life.
Many internet policies were drafted before social networking sites became popular and may need to be updated to make sure the now cover these sites and the potential issues they throw up. Any changes should be communicated to all employees as this will strengthen an employer's position in the event of any disciplinary action or the need to defend any subsequent claim".  For more information, click here to contact us.
Protecting organisations and individuals
Companies should:
•    Set out the parameters of internet usage
•    The consequences for breach of any internet policy , including reference to other related policies e.g. equal opportunities, harassment and bullying
•    Inform employees about the level of monitoring and the policy itself, including any updates or changes
•    Follow fair procedures in respect of any disciplinary action and apply the policy consistently
•    Not be afraid to use information from social networking sites to deal with any misconduct, provided this is done appropriately.
For employees, the onus is on them to understand the policy and to ensure that their own site pages do not breach their employer's policies. They should also bear in mind that their pages are visible to millions of people globally and the consequences this may have.
For further information on any of these issues, please contact the Employment Specialists at Prestige Employment Solutions on

Belfast: 02895810181
Newry: 02830252107
Dublin: 00353 1 4429987

or alternatively email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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