Dynamic Legal | Thoughts on Social Media Screenings
Many employees and potential employees make the mistake of thinking that their private social media accounts do not have an impact on their jobs or potential to be hired. A person should know that any statements they make on social networks, which are not in agreement with the dynamic of the company, can cost them their job or a chance to get the job.
As an employee, you are a representative of the company you work for and therefore you have a fiduciary duty to represent your employer in the best possible manner. The same applies for when one is being hired – previous conduct has a way of affecting a potential employer’s business, for example if someone has posted some racist content on social media in the past, they may be denied an opportunity to work within a certain environment.
This implementation by the government does not infringe on a person’s right to privacy or freedom of expression/speech as these social media accounts are held in a public sphere, where everyone is able to view them. The government needs to align itself with people of good repute so as not to be embroiled in scandals especially ones relating to social media activity.
Minister for Public Service and Administration, Ayanda Dlodlo, has issued a new circular ‘encouraging the use of the internet’ as an additional platform for reference checks on candidates who are looking for employment in the public service.
Dlodlo said that the advisory circular was sent to all government departments and was not mandatory.
Instead, it is intended to ensure that government’s recruitment processes are enhanced with the use of other platforms beyond the traditional means of screening, she said.
“In order for us to recruit individuals that meet the prescripts, we need to employ all tools and methodologies of screening including the use of internet and social media in particular,” she said.
“This circular does not seek to restrict the constitutional rights to privacy of any individual or group of people seeking employment in the Public Service, it also does not seek to suppress or muzzle any ideological or political views of people whatsoever – neither is it designed to disadvantage South Africans on the basis of party political affiliation.”
According to Dlodlo, research around the world indicates that the use of internet and social media, in particular, has helped organisations both in identifying exceptional talent and in other instances to avoid negligent hiring.
For example, a Career Builder Survey of 2018 indicates that 33% of employers found content that made them more likely to hire the employee and 23% found information that led to direct hiring of applicants. This proves that such online content can be an employee’s best advocate, she said.
She further emphasized the fact that departments who exercised the option to broaden their verification through the internet should obtain the consent of the candidate concerned.
“We are fully aware of the constitutional obligations on privacy of every individual and the fact that government is still seized with the task of developing a policy on internet use. That is why it is important to obtain the consent of the candidate when such web searches are be conducted,” she said.
“This recruitment practice is not a mechanism to prejudice people, it is an international trend in recruitment and as a country aspiring to digitize its systems, and use social media as an empowering tool, it is time that we embraced such practices to enhance the professionalisation of the Public Service,” the minister said.