Management February 4, 2014 Last updated September 18th, 2018 2,234 Reads share

Social Media In The Workplace: The Concerns

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Social Media in the workplace is a topic that has come about in the past number of years, and is causing increasing concerns for organisations in terms of management of employees and data protection issues. Social Media is one of the prevailing means of communication in this day and age. This presents challenges in the employment law and data protection spheres.

There are a whole host of means by which an employee can communicate with the external environment from the workplace: via Twitter, through mobile applications such as “Snapchat”, video messaging and “WhatsApp” messaging over the organisation’s networks and via email.


  • Snapchat is a new phenomenon whereby a person takes a picture of themselves and sends to a person in their contacts list, this picture is visible for up to a maximum of 10 seconds, and then disappears, however an organisation may inadvertently be faced with data protection issues if the recipient takes a screenshot of a picture, and there is organisational data in the background. This may cause serious issues should confidential data be released.
  • Similarly, should an employee send a tweet, whether inappropriate or not and albeit from their personal Twitter account, this may be linked back to the organisation, when sent on working time, or via organisational systems.
  • WhatsApp is similar to texting however it is messaging via the internet; hence Organisational networks may be used to facilitate this.

Three areas in particular where trends have begun to appear relate to: Mobile Devices, Recruitment  & Social Media and Disciplinary relating to Social Media activity.

#1. Mobile Devices

Employees have never been as accessible, from use of mobile devices, logging into emails via the cloud, and mobile applications to carry out work. Whilst this is of benefit to organisations in one sense, it may create issues. In relation to providing any device for employees, organisations should evaluate their policies, and ensure that there is a clause around the downloading of unauthorised software, or in the case of mobile phones, non-work related mobile applications.

It is important for organisations to examine what happens when sensitive or confidential business data is downloaded to an employee’s personal device; is the employee then seen as a data processor? It is advisable that there is a clear policy around the use of personal devices for work purposes, and that all devices are encrypted or password protected in the event of theft of a device. It is also advisable for organisations to clarify that emails should not be sent between certain times, in order to prevent employees checking emails at hours when they are not working.

#2. Recruitment & Social Media

Given that a significant number of people now share huge amounts of detail of their daily lives on social media networks, is it justifiable for organisations to view these profiles as a means of checking out a potential employee? Social media sites may contain a litany of information about a person, which the organisation may not normally be privy to in the course of the interview process.

A person should not be asked about sexual orientation, religious beliefs, socio-economic background or family or civil status during an interview process. However, as this information may be freely available on the person’s social network, is it appropriate for an organisation to use this information? A candidate who is unsuccessful in securing a role who becomes aware of this usage of data may have the potential to take a claim under equality grounds.

#3. Disciplinary relating to Social Media Activity

Organisations should implement stringent social media policies in relation to employee’s conduct on social media, both in a work setting and a personal setting. It is important that if an organisation takes action in relation to an employee’s conduct on social media forums, that employees were first of all aware of the policies in the company. Organisations must still follow fair procedures and adhere to the principles of natural justice, and sanctions should always be proportionate to the offence.

It is advisable that organisations provide clarity to employees with regards to Social Media usage; use of, and security around mobile devices; and implement a policy relating to disciplinary for possible breaches in relation to social media, as this is an area which is becoming a concern for organisations.

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Amy O’Sullivan

Amy O’Sullivan

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