Restrictions in the Workplace
Employers can set their own rules in relation to use of the Internet and social media at work.
Can the employer monitor, access, review the employee’s electronic communications?
It is advisable for employers to implement clear policies on the use of social media and social networking websites, setting out the standards of conduct expected from staff and making clear that a breach may lead to disciplinary action, including dismissal. Otherwise it could be difficult for employers to defend dismissing an employee for inappropriate conduct on a social networking site. Employers can lawfully intercept, monitor and record communications for certain specified purposes, including investigating or detecting unauthorised use of the system by employees, provided they have made “all reasonable efforts” to inform employees that they may monitor email and Internet use.
Employee’s Use of Social Media to Disparage the Employer or Divulge Confidential Information
In some cases, posting disparaging statements about the employer on social media may constitute misconduct amounting to a potentially fair reason for dismissal, and may be a repudiatory breach of contract leading to grounds for summary dismissal (i.e. dismissal by the employer without notice). Disclosure of the employer’s confidential information on social media is likely to amount to a breach of the employee’s employment contract, either of an express confidentiality clause or of the employee’s implied duty of confidentiality, which could lead to the employer taking disciplinary and other action against them. Employers should consider putting in place clear rules on the use of social media and communicate these to employees. This could be in a social media and/or electronic communications policy.