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Whats-APPropriate

WhatsApp is a popular way for colleagues to communicate with each other in the workplace and it is common now for employees to use WhatsApp for a blend of both business and personal use. Research by Guild shows that 41% of UK workers admit to using WhatsApp for work purposes despite WhatsApp’s terms of service prohibiting its use for non-personal matters.

There are obvious pros and cons to its use within a working environment and employers should be sensible in this regard and manage it with care. Most of us have been added to WhatsApp groups with family and friends but is it the right way to discuss business matters?

Advantages

  • It allows employers to easily engage with and manage teams, allowing team members to freely stay in touch particularly if working remotely
  • Provides instant and effective communication
  • Security through end-to-end encryption
  • Creates the ability to share ideas, discuss improvements and allows creativity

Risks

  • Having numerous ‘chats’ can be confusing for employees leading to messages being missed or responses mixed up.
  • There is a risk of claims and/or grievances for bullying and harassment from  inappropriate messages and content. Common claims arise from banter/gossip, inappropriate videos/ pictures and exclusion from groups, which could lead to claims of unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
  • Effective communication is about delivering the correct message to the right people at the right time and WhatsApp can help achieve this. However, if your business has a culture of messaging after hours and over weekends this could lead to claims in relation to stress, anxiety and a breach of the Working Time Regulations 1998.
  • WhatsApp features and content shared through chats may not comply with GDPR.
  • Employees could be personally liable for bullying and harassment claims and could also be exposed to complaints under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
  • Loss of productivity with staff using WhatsApp for personal or unofficial work engagements during work hours.
  • Most employees and businesses are unaware that the messages they send could be used as evidence in tribunals or in court.

How can you protect your business?

  • Have robust and comprehensive policies to cover social media and workplace communications.
  • Include a Right to Disconnect Policy to cover expectations for contact out of normal working hours.
  • Put in place staff training to ensure employees understand the policies.

If you require any assistance with how to effectively manage WhatsApp groups for employees, or have any other questions, please get in touch with the CG Employment Team.