Employers should have in place policies covering the use of the web and should not be tempted to check out the profiles of job applicants on social networking sites
In guidance available on its website, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) advises employers that they should have in place policies covering the use of email and the web, including social networking sites, at work, so that there are no surprises for either employer or employee should things ever go wrong.
The TUC advice suggests that whilst employers are completely within their rights to forbid staff from using sites such as Facebook, MySpace or Bebo in work time, a total ban may be something of an over-reaction.
Instead the TUC suggests that sensible employers, realising that their staff spend much of their waking hours in work and lead busy lives, should be trusted to spend a few minutes of their lunchbreak 'poking' their friends or making plans for outside work.
The guidance says that policies drawn up with the involvement of staff can set out what will and will not be allowed.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: 'Simply cracking down on use of new web tools like Facebook is not a sensible solution to a problem, which is only going to get bigger. It's unreasonable for employers to try to stop their staff from having a life outside work, just because they can't get their heads around the technology. Better to invest a little time in working out sensible conduct guidelines, so that there don't need to be any nasty surprises for staff or employers.'
The TUC also warns that employers who take equal opportunities in recruitment seriously should not be tempted to check out the profiles of job applicants on social networking sites. As only a minority of potential recruits will have public profiles on social networks, using information from this source can give an unfair advantage or disadvantage to certain candidates.