Employers urged to go easy on staff in cyber space

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Employers who snoop on staff by using social networks could find themselves at the wrong end of a discrimination claim according to Acas which has now written a social media guide for bosses.

As more than half of us now use social networks at work, Acas has urged employers to go easy on the penalties for staff who are caught making inappropriate comments on the likes of Facebook. Likewise, using information about potential recruits gathered through Google could be unwise.

Social Networking – Employers warned not to be too harsh

"It can be tempting to have a look at a potential recruit's online personal profile or see what might appear through a quick Google search," said Linda Stewart of Simpson Millar. "But such personal information is governed by the Data Protection Act 1998 and overstepping the mark could leave businesses exposed to a claim for damages."

Acas has labelled social networking sites as a 'growing problem' and it's chief executive John Taylor has asked employers to avoid heavy-handed reprimands for staff who break the rules. "If an employer is too tough, they need to consider the potential impact of any negative publicity. Heavy-handed monitoring can cause bad feeling and be time consuming," she said and added: "A manager wouldn't follow an employee down the pub to check on what he or she said to friends about their day at work. Just because they can do something like this online, doesn't mean they should."

At the same time a study by myjobgroup has estimated that office use of social media costs the UK economy £14 billion a year in lost productivity.

"Whether businesses wish to ban or encourage the use of social networking sites, it would be wise to have a policy in place which clearly sets out what is and what isn't allowed," said Linda. "The level of professionalism expected of employees should be the same whether online or offline and making this clear to everyone across the business can help avoid further problems as the social media revolution gathers pace."


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