Online Workplace Critics - UK Businesses Urged to Address Social Media HR Policies - 21st May 2010
40% criticise employers online... but 50% support disciplinary action for doing so
Almost 40 per cent of UK employees criticise their workplace on social networking and micro-blogging sites like Facebook and Twitter, with one in five admitting to lambasting their bosses, a survey by MyJobGroup.co.uk (www.MyJobGroup.co.uk) revealed today.
Nearly 60 per cent of the 1,000 UK workers polled confessed they would change what they wrote on their social networking profile if they knew their employer was reading it - yet recent Facebook privacy settings changes mean many employers could already be checking up on staff.
The employee research - conducted on behalf of MyJobGroup.co.uk which operates the UK's largest network of regional job boards - showed over half (53 per cent) of workers believed fellow staff should face disciplinary action for criticising their workplace on social networking sites.
Most staff had little or no awareness of the legal implications of their online jibes and 70 per cent had no idea if their company had an HR or disciplinary policy in place to tackle online criticism; only 16 per cent knew for certain their company was equipped to deal with such issues.
In response, MyJobGroup.co.uk has teamed up with leading law firm Irwin Mitchell to make both employer and employee aware of the severity of workplace criticism over social networks.
Lee Fayer, Managing Director of MyJobGroup.co.uk, said: "There is no doubt that social networks are seen as an environment where employees feel comfortable criticising their workplace and there is scant regard for how serious these taunts could be.
"Open Facebook accounts and Tweets are effectively online publishing channels and each has the potential to damage companies' and individuals' reputations, so staff should be careful of off-the-cuff criticism, no matter how funny it may seem at the time.
"As an employee, if you were to openly criticise or defame your workplace in a newspaper or within a printed flyer, you'd expect legal consequences - they should expect the same of online outbursts.
"Businesses should also be aware of the damage of such defamatory comments in social networking sites and in tandem with Irwin Mitchell we are advising them to ensure they have clear employee policy guidelines."
Fergal Dowling, an employment law specialist at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, said: "Abuse of social media can be grounds for discipline, up to and including termination of contract, depending on the level of abuse, and the policies in place at the company.
"Employees need to be increasingly aware and careful about what they write online as proved by the conviction of a man who tweeted what he thought was a joke about an airport bomb.
"Employers and HR departments need to be upfront and honest with their employees about their policies. Many firms may ban social media altogether but in some industries that is simply not viable, and some creative industries rely on social media.
"The important thing is to make sure that everyone knows what the clear boundaries should any need for discipline occur.
"Businesses should consider adding new terms to their policies dealing with specific issues such as restrictions on disclosing company information, rules governing any mentions of the company and any concerns about work issues should be dealt with internally rather than blogging or posting about problems on Facebook."
For more information on MyJobGroup.co.uk services, please telephone 0845 017 6777 or visit www.myjobgroup.co.uk.