Social Networking - Employment Pitfalls in the Internet Age

Social networking plays a large part in modern society, but how far can employers go in monitoring the internet use of their workers and potential employees? Local employment solicitors at EmploymentLawHelp are urging employers to be cautious when delving onto sites such as Facebook or MySpace and are advising them to follow simple guidelines in order to avoid a networking nightmare.
As an employer looking to fill a position in the company, it could be tempting to check the online profiles of all applicants, if only to see if the new recruits would fit into the office dynamic. However, this practice has the potential to open up an employer to a plethora of claims from any applicant it might turn down.

For example, it is likely that any profile would contain that applicant’s sex and sexual orientation: two factors that are normally kept hidden in the early stages of the application process to avoid the possibility of any discrimination. As the average users of these social networking sites are members of the younger generation, it leaves any such monitoring process open to accusations of discriminating either against the old or the young.

Considering that not all candidates would have such a profile and that even those who do would upload different levels of information, any use of social networking sites in the selection procedure would be haphazard and almost certainly unfair. So, while there is nothing preventing employers looking at this information, and little chance of the applicants finding out if they did, it could lead to claims of discrimination.

But what about current employees? Can employers check up on the internet habits of their own workforce? Unfortunately, there is no short answer to this question.

An employer is perfectly entitled to monitor what sites an employee visits on company computers both in and out of work hours and it is common to completely prohibit the use of certain sites, such as the aforementioned social networks. However, reading personal e-mails and logging exactly what an employee is doing on the internet is almost certainly going too far and would be too costly in terms of man hours to properly police.

The best solution for an employer would be to draw up a clear and transparent internet policy for their workplace, outlining exactly what is and is not allowed and explaining the level of monitoring that will be carried out.

Finally, it is important for an employer to know what level of control they have over their employee’s commenting about the company on the internet. Perhaps an employee has made libelous comments about the company on an internet message board. Or perhaps he has mentioned confidential information, such as Client names or project titles, that the employer did not want made public. Trying to monitor the internet for examples of libelous of confidential comments would be practically impossible and certainly undesirable, but if such content comes to an employers’ attention it must be dealt with accordingly. However, it is important for employers to remember that their employees will usually be entitled to have a legitimate moan about their job.

If you have any queries please call EmploymentLawHelp, part of Richard Nelson Solictors on 084 4804 4800 or visit

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