An employer seeking to recruit a new member of staff may be sifting through a number of completed application forms.
Before choosing who to interview, the employer might want to take a short cut. What if a candidate were active on social media? Wouldn’t it make sense to see if he/she has a Facebook account (or similar) and do a little bit of initial research?
There is nothing inherently illegal about looking at open web pages. But there are risks for potential employers. Here are some.
Photographs will probably reveal ethnic origins. They will also reveal approximate age. The candidate’s pages might also reveal any disabilities that the candidate might have. And all that is quite apart from information on political views, trade union membership, and previous employment disputes.
Suppose the employer, having looked at the pages, decides not to interview. The candidate is aware that his/her site has been viewed. It would be the easiest thing to do for a disgruntled candidate to argue that the employer has breached the Equality Act 2010 and discriminated against him/her on the grounds of race/age/disability.
The advice set out in a recent article by Practical Law is that employers should:
- Consider using social media tools in background checks only after initial interviews, to minimise claims that hiring decisions were influenced by discriminatory factors (such as age or race) discovered in social media searches.
- Require verification of any information obtained on the internet before relying on it.
- Prohibit employees involved in recruitment from adding an applicant as a "friend" or otherwise connecting with an applicant via social media to investigate their background, to minimise the risk of data protection breaches.
Employers should also consider having a social media policy in place. We can help on this.
For advice on any Employment law matter, please contact Julian Freeland on 01869 252244