18 January 2016

Last week’s ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that companies can monitor workers’ private online chats should not be taken by salons as a green light to ‘snoop’ on personal email and social media messages sent by staff while at work, the NHBF has said.

Although the case was widely reported in the media, it was a complex case and the verdict was not unanimous, so businesses still need to tread carefully when it comes to monitoring internet use by employees. Croner, the employment law firm that runs the NHBF’s Legal Lifeline, has said that a policy of “blanket, automatic, continuous monitoring” could still be considered “disproportionate” by a court.

Separately, the HR body the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has warned that “excessive” monitoring of employees can lead to “a culture of distrust” within an organisation, potentially harming morale and staff loyalty.

Nevertheless, in light of the ruling, this is a good time for salons to revisit their workplace social media and email policy and communicate it to employees, NHBF chief executive Hilary Hall has advised. 

More and more salons are embracing the power of social media as a marketing and promotional tool, and this increasingly includes encouraging employees to ‘shout out’ about the salon and what’s going on, often through their own Twitter, Facebook or other social media accounts.

The lines between what’s ‘work’ and what’s ‘personal’ when it comes to social media are becoming increasingly blurred. But especially when a stylist is leaving or moving on, salons want to make sure things aren’t being said that can risk damaging their reputation or lead to clients being poached to a rival salon.

“This court ruling has highlighted what is, legally, still a grey area. It is vital for salons to have a policy in place that clearly states what is and what isn’t acceptable when it comes to email and social media usage, and that this has been clearly communicated to staff so they know where they stand.

Finally, if salons are in any doubt as to the best course of action when it comes to monitoring employees, it is important they take professional legal or HR advice,” Hilary added.