By Leon Deakin, Senior Associate, Thomas Eggar LLP
A recent PwC study suggests a third of young people would be happy for their employer to see social media profiles in return for job security. I am at a loss to see how this idea could realistically get off the ground as a potential initiative given the serious legal concerns and mechanical difficulties of implementation.
Discounting privacy and general monitoring concerns, unless the employer promised some form of tangible additional ‘job security’ the employee would be giving up something for nothing. Certainly, it is hard to imagine what a credible form of greater job security would look like.
For example, could an employer agree contractually not to dismiss on the grounds of poor performance, minor acts of misconduct or redundancy?
I cannot see employers agreeing to these sorts of restrictions on their business, even if there was a legally enforceable and workable mechanism available to do this. As a result we are straight back to vague and hollow promises motivating the workforce and improving wellbeing. If they really wanted to achieve this, I am sure most employers could do so without reading what employees have posted on Facebook or Twitter.
Many individuals post sensitive personal information, which they would be unlikely or at least reticent to share in a work context. This could consciously or unconsciously skew managerial decisions and provoke discrimination claims. At the very least it could leave employers vulnerable to such accusations.
Claims of improved sickness levels seem doubtful. Even if employees post about their ‘health and wellbeing’, employers would be wise to still seek proper medical guidance from a qualified practitioner before making crucial decisions. Medical experts are unlikely to rely on social media when making assessments, and even if employers feel able to engage directly posts must be contextualised, necessitating dialogue with the employee.
Finally, employees would simply self-edit what they posted on social media and where to ensure employers only saw what they wanted them to see. Something many people who already have work colleagues as contacts or friends are pretty familiar with doing already!