Facebook began in 2004 and since that time social media sites have become hugely popular.

While social media sites were created as a mechanism to help people communicate more efficiently with their friends and family, in the work place these sites can be problematic. Problems have arisen in the workplace when employees have used social media during work time and/or posted comments about their employer or co-workers.

Social networking websites can also affect a person’s ability to secure employment. For example 62% of British employers use social media sites to screen candidates. A quarter of the employers in this research say they rejected candidates as a result of information viewed on their Facebook, Bebo or MySpace sites. They employers claim they were concerned about “excess alcohol abuse, ethics or job disrespect”.

Dismissal relating to the use of social networking have occurred in New Zealand. The NZ cases arising from the use of social media in the workplace show:

  • employees must be careful what they say on Facebook about their co-workers as these comments can be taken into account by the employer in deciding whether to dismiss, even though the employee’s conduct may occur outside the workplace;
  • Facebooks posts will be relevant in determining whether trust and confidence still exists between parties to an employment relationship;
  • unauthorised use of Facebook or other social media websites while at work may form the basis for disciplinary action being taken against an employee.

In summary, employees or potential employees are wise to be cautious about their use of social media. It is suggested employees refrain from posting any negative comments about their place of work or work-mates, refrain from using social media while in the workplace without authorisation to do so; and review their social media profiles to see whether they will be appealing for any potential employers.
This article is intended as a point of reference and should not be relied on as a substitute for professional advice. Specialist advice should always be sought in relation to any particular circumstances and no liability will be accepted for any losses incurred by those relying solely on this article.

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