February 18th, 2015 / Insight posted in

Checking your employees’ social media pages – sensible precaution or invasion of privacy?

By Philippa Barnes

Do you always check the social media profiles of potential recruits before making an offer? Would it change your opinion of a new hire if you saw something shocking on their pages? Would you check a current employee’s pages? And reconsider their future with your company if you didn’t like what you saw? Would that be fair on the employee? Social media and its accessibility to current and potential employers is a hot topic at present as people adjust to the potential impact that they social media presence may have on their future job prospects.
Some would say that the right to privacy should extend to personal pages unrelated to work. Others may argue that anything placed in the public domain, which social media posts most surely are, is fair game for employers to look at before hiring an employee.
As an employer, finding controversial postings may naturally impact on a decision about making an offer. As long as the decision is not related to any discriminatory reason for not making or retracting an offer then this is potentially fair enough.
However, what about if you find out something about a current employee that you are not happy with, what can you do about it?
It really depends if the information found relates to the individual’s employment and/or could call the organisation into disrepute.
If it does reflect badly on your organisation – e.g. commenting about customers, clients or other employees on publically viewable pages – then this could be something that should be raised with the employee before requiring them to remove the post from the site. If the matter is serious in nature or you have evidence your company’s reputation has been damaged, a customer complaint for example, you can look to take further disciplinary action. However, if there is no link to the business it is probably best left in the employee’s private life and not brought up in the work environment. As a note for employees – the safest way to behave online is to expect your boss to see it and post accordingly. Failing that, just don’t make any reference to your employer so your antics can’t be related back to your employment and you should have nothing to worry about!