Social Media Blurring Line between Work and Home Life; DISPUTES IN WORKPLACE ON RISE SAY LAW EXPERTS

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Byline: RHODRI EVANS

THE number of workplace disputes about the personal social media accounts of employees soared last year, according to Welsh law firm Dolmans.

Employment law experts at the firm have reported a significant increase in the number of official complaints being made about social media in the workplace. In the past year, up to 15% of all employment law cases handled by the firm have involved an element of social media.

Jennifer Cottle, employment lawyer at Dolmans, said: "Most people see a distinct line between their work life and their personal life. However, social media blurs the distinction between the two as it inextricably links your personal life to your professional career.

"The foundation to the problem lies in the implied duty each employee has with their employer, which incorporates both trust and confidence. Inappropriate use of social media networks can create a danger that puts the professionalism which is usually maintained within the workplace at risk.

"The majority of cases we have experienced have involved employees allegedly bringing the companies they work for into disrepute. This can involve posts or pictures of them doing what they shouldn't be doing at work or acting inappropriately; we have seen cases of people losing their jobs in the past year over what they have been seen to have done on Facebook.

"The danger is that it's not just your friends who you're sharing this information with, it's your colleagues, clients and other businesses too. Your customers don't necessarily want to know that you're having a really bad day, that you dislike your job or that you're recovering from a big night out.

"There is the impression that if it's outside work time and it is a personal profile, you can do and say what you like. But if you're bringing your employer into disrepute or painting them in a bad light, you may be breaking that implied duty and there are potentially huge consequences to what you share with others and who is going to see it."

But it is not just those things that employees put online that is getting them into trouble.

"We've also seen employees disciplined for excessive usage of social media activity," said Ms Cottle. "As every post and image is logged, it creates a timeline that can be used as evidence that you haven't been working when you should have been.

"Even if you're very careful, you need to monitor what others are posting about you to their followers as well. …