Work WhatsApp Groups
Work WhatsApp groups can be a place where teams share work-related updates, what is happening throughout the day if some employees are working offsite and other business-related purposes. However, work WhatsApp Groups can also pose a potential threat to companies. They can expose the company to various risks and liabilities through the sharing of inappropriate memes and jokes.
Bringing the employer’s name into disrepute
The CCMA, bargaining councils and the Labour Courts have accepted that derogatory statements on social media platforms such as WhatsApp, which bring the employer’s name into disrepute or which negatively affects the workplace environment, regardless of whether it was on or off duty, may be a fair reason to dismiss the employee.
Employees need to be especially careful regarding what they post, regardless how innocent (or justified) they may feel it is. Once a post on social media goes viral and an employer feels that their name has been put into disrepute, this may mean grounds for dismissal. Employees may feel that because they are posted in a closed WhatsApp group that they are immune; this is not always the case. If that post is screenshotted or is sent to others and goes viral, the employee cannot rely on the fact that it was shared in a closed group on WhatsApp.
Social media and misconduct
Some examples of content that should not be shared on work WhatsApp groups is (but not limited to):
- employees who use company IT systems and servers to access their own personal WhatsApp accounts;
- employees who make disparaging comments about their employer, managers fellow employees and/or vendors on these work WhatsApp groups; and
- employees who make racist remarks on these work WhatsApp groups or who circulate racist, discriminatory, or pornographic materials, cartoons and memes.
Social media policies
In order to mitigate the risk, it has been suggested that employers should develop social media policies which provide clear guidelines and rules as to the boundaries for social media as well as what is regarded as acceptable and unacceptable use of social media, including WhatsApp. These guidelines should apply to both, while the employees are at work and while off duty. Such policies should be backed up with extensive training of both employees and managers and they should be strictly enforced.
For assistance on advice in drafting a social media policy as well as policies concerning electronic communication, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article is not intended to provide legal advice. This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).