With now around 30 million blogs existing on the World Wide Web, and recent research showing that the majority of bloggers are unaware of their legal position when posting online, employment lawyers at Glovers solicitors are warning both employees and employers to be aware of the problems that blogs may cause.
“There seems to be some uncertainty as to what employers can object to as far as an employee’s blog is concerned” says Sikin Andela, employment lawyer and partner at Glovers. An employee of Waterstones was dismissed in 2005 for gross misconduct and bringing his employer into disrepute as a result of his blog, which contained derogatory nicknames for both the company and the employee’s boss. However the dismissal was successfully appealed.
Andela advises employers to have a clear policy on blogging. “This can be incorporated into an existing internet policy within a contract of employment or employee handbook and should provide a clear definition of blogging and what content will be deemed as unacceptable to the employer. The question of whether employees are authorised to access personal blogs during work hours should also be addressed, because employers may be liable for the act of their employee if it is carried out in the course of their employment. Most importantly, it should also set out the consequences which employees will face, should they fall foul of the policy.”
Andela says that individuals using a blog should exercise caution when posting comments online, and in particular, those which relate to their employer and the nature of their employment. “It is important to bear in mind that an employee has an implied duty of mutual trust and confidence towards their employers” she adds. “Any confidential information which is revealed on a blog, or comments which could be deemed to be defamatory, impact negatively on the employer and could mean that an employee is acting in breach of this duty.”
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