Employment law whats keeping you awake?

Written by
Changeboard Team

01 Mar 2012

01 Mar 2012 • by Changeboard Team

Cross the social media divide

Cast your mind back five years: did your company ban or restrict internet use at work? Do you still have a ban in place, or has your company embraced online interaction? For those companies living in the social media dark ages, it’s time you pulled yourself into the 21st century.

Did you know that in 2025 generation Y – people born since the late 80s and early 90s – will make up 75% of the world’s workforce? (Source: BPW Foundation’s Gen Y study published in April 2011).

This is the first generation to have grown up with the internet and who view social networking as a normal part of everyday life. In a study ‘Connected World Report’ by Cisco published in October 2011, one in three students and young professionals said they would prioritise social media freedom, device flexibility and work mobility over salary in accepting a job offer.

Some 64% of college students said they had asked about social media usage policies during job interviews and around 24% says it would be a key factor in accepting the offer. It is clear, then, that companies need to rethink the way their employees work, to make major changes that will accommodate the unique work desires of this generation.

So what can those businesses that are frightened of this unfamiliar territory do? Well, the first thing is to learn what social media is and the benefits it can bring to your organisation. The advantages are numerous, including increased brand recognition and web traffic and improved customer service and feedback.

Get rid of that total ban

Talk to employees and customers to get their feedback on how social media should be used. You also need to think about when employees have access to social media sites; for example a manufacturing company may allow access during official break times, a marketing company on the other hand may allow access at any time. It all depends on what is best for your business.

The social media policy

Next comes the important bit – the social media policy. This should outline when and where social media can be accessed, what is required of the employee, state that monitoring and/or recording may take place and the consequences of breaching the policy.

When the policy has been written let employees know that it’s there. Unfortunately, employees sometimes say and do the wrong things on these sites, but this is usually down to the fact that their company has no guidelines or nothing has been communicated to staff.

Social media still presents itself as a challenge to many businesses, but it doesn’t have to. And if you want your company to be seen as innovative, exciting and dynamic then you should consider  hopping on the social media bandwagon and start to future-proof your business.

Talk, talk case for race discrimination?

If you work in a company that employs a diverse workforce, then you will understand the difficulties that this sometimes presents, particularly the language issue. Consequently many employers are demanding that English is the only language to be spoken during work hours.

Having a common language does have benefits and can help to create a unified workplace. However, a blanket ban may have the opposite effect. Employees that speak English as a second or third language may feel that they are being unfairly targeted, which could result in claims for race discrimination.

If you want employees to speak English, you need to think carefully about what it is you are trying to achieve. You must have a legitimate business need that outweighs the discriminatory impact on the workforce and cannot reasonably be achieved by less discriminatory methods.

For example, can the business aim be achieved by stipulating that English is used when dealing with work matters or, in the case of the care industry, within the earshot of residents?

Implementing a common-language policy:

  • Set up focus groups to discuss the situation and possible solutions. There is evidence that decisions and agreements made in groups gain greater commitment than those made by individuals.
  • Fully consult with employees giving the reasons why you are planning to make such a move.
  • Make sure that any policy is not discriminatory and that all employees are made aware of the policy and the consequences of breaching the policy.

Employees not pulling their weight?

What happens if someone isn’t pulling their weight? The last thing employers need in the current climate is to carry colleagues that are not doing their job. It affects morale within the company and can have an adverse effect on clients and business performance. So what can you do?

  • Issue employees with a written statement of terms and conditions of employment within two months of the start of their employment.
  • Have a written disciplinary procedure. 
  • New employees should be given a trial period, during which time their performance should be monitored.
  • Make sure that all your employees understand their objectives, and those of your organisation, and that you monitor that performance closely.
  • Have regular reviews with employees to discuss their performance against objectives.
  • Even if the employee is still in their trial period, you may wish to consider using the disciplinary procedure to address performance issues because of the impact of the Acas Code of Practice.
  • For all employees with more than one year’s service (two years’ service from April 2012), you must give warnings before dismissal. If you do not do this, an unfair dismissal claim would be successful.
  • Treat people fairly and equally. Do not discriminate because of race, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, religion or belief, disability, age, part-time status or fixed-term status.