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Is it unlawful for employers to look at an applicant’s social media sites?

RecruitmentOctober 18, 2016

Is it unlawful for employers to look at an applicant’s social media sites? (Last Updated On: November 9, 2016)

Almost all employers (93%) say that they search social media profiles during the interview process according to a study by Jobvite. However, is it unlawful for employers to look at an applicant’s online activity or profiles on sites including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn during recruitment?

Looking at a candidate’s online profile is not unlawful, however, care should be taken to not be discriminatory in any decisions made about the candidate as a result. For example, if the relationship information on Facebook causes you to not employ a person because of their sexual orientation, this will be considered unlawful discrimination. With such wide use of social media during recruitment, and no specific rules, there is the potential for disputes and misuse.

To avoid any challenges when using social media during recruitment, employers should make applicants aware at an early stage that these searches may occur during the recruitment process and information may be collected from these sites. Applicants have the right to know that the information they publicly share on social media platforms can be viewed during the recruitment process.

Employsure shares some helpful guidelines for employers who wish to use social media to carry out online searches. These include:

  • taking reasonable steps to check the accuracy of information obtained online
  • distinguishing between social media for private and professional use – for example, information obtained from a professional LinkedIn site will be more suitable to assess the applicant than information on a private Facebook page
  • only using social media searches to look at specific information rather than just a general fishing exercise. Information to be looked at and collected should relate to the applicant’s suitability for the role, personal capabilities, skills, education and experience

Applicants should be given an opportunity to respond to material found online when it is being used as part of the hiring decision-making process.

Employers should consider developing a clear policy on the use of social media during recruitment. Not only will this safeguard disputes over information being sourced but it will also allow those who are looking at applicant’s profiles to know what they can and cannot access, for example, which sites, what information and why.

As Australia’s leading workplace relations specialist, Employsure can help you implement tailored social media policies and procedures into your workplace. Call us today on 1300 651 415 to speak with a specialist.

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