Drawing on her many years’ experience as a litigator specialising in employment and equality law, Cliona Kimber is now looking at how the digital age is bringing challenges to the workplace and highlighting the challenging task that traditional laws have in keeping up with the new digital advances. Ms Kimber, Barrister at Law, discusses these topics in her new book entitled “Cyber Law and Employment” co-authored with Pauline Walley and published with Thomson Reuters.
“A recent survey by Fry’s Solicitors shows that 78% of employees are using social media while at work, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. When you add blogs, self publishing tools, tweets and the myriad ways to make information public, and to express opinions on line, we are dealing with a pressure cooker of issues in the workplace” said Cliona Kimber, Barrister. “The greater challenge of our age is that laws are trailing behind trying to keep pace with these new digital and self-publication tools. Help is needed to give employers and employees the tools to navigate these changes for successful workplace relationships.”
The top five problems that employers and employees are dealing with in the workplace which Ms Kimber has encountered in her legal practice are:
- Using social media while at work-Social media can help build brand awareness and increase customers but where does corporate promotion stop and employee’s ownership of their own creative output begin? – Should employers ban social media use or encourage it?
- Issuing guidelines for employee postings – Preventing inappropriate use of social media and other online expressions of opinion means curbing bullying, defamatory online comments that could disparage a corporate brand. While expressing personal opinions about a company and colleagues took place before the digital revolution, with social media these opinions are now placed in a public forum.
- Stealing intellectual property (IP) – Workplace secrets and practices or customer lists can be downloaded and with the click of a mouse employees can walk out the door with this IP in the new digital age. How can organizations protect against this? Do friends and family customers belong to the employee or the organisation?
- Controlling an employee’s personal time and private behaviour – Can or should an employer control employee behavior outside of work? Would personal inappropriate behavior reflect badly on the company if it is now available for all to see online? In what circumstances can the organisation censor an employee’s personal blog?
- Employee background – Social media and online profiles have profound challenges for employment equality protections. Employers can now find out online about a potential workers’ race and religious beliefs, clothing, age, sex and disability and much more. How will policy makers and equality rights advocates now ensure neutral hiring?