Technology has come a long way since the concept of employment law was first introduced and it was probably never envisaged that there would be so many possible avenues of communication between employer and employee. E-mail, text, Facebook, instant messaging, Twitter etc all seem to have overtaken the old fashioned letter and have become an acceptable part of everyday life.
Communication between employer and employee, particularly from the employer, is all part of forming a paper trail that makes their position and their actions easy to follow. It may seem drastic to always think of it in these terms, however, should any employee situation reach tribunal and you need to be able to defend yourself, it is vital that you can point to tangible evidence in the form of letters and emails, for example.
There are many pitfalls with using new technology to communicate. Texts may not reach the recipient if the particular network carrying them is down, or someone has changed numbers or lost their phone; messages may not be delivered in full; people may not check their Facebook or Twitter accounts, leading to missed messages; even spelling mistakes in quickly written text messages may skew the point being made and lead to misunderstanding.
Employers are entitled to set rules that staff should stick to during their employment and methods of communication is an important area. Employers may state that all correspondence must be in writing; or that all sickness reporting, for example, must be made be telephone to the line manager. This also has the advantage of helping to drive down sickness as well as preventing lost messages.
Many employers stipulate that resignations must be in writing – this can obviously span letters as well as emails, however, emails are much becoming the norm even for formal correspondence.
However, no matter how many rules you have in place, you cannot ultimately control how staff choose to correspond with you. What is important, however, is that regardless of how the communication is made, is that you follow up by letter or email if necessary if it is a formal communication, and not text message or Twitter, because these are the easiest ways to reproduce your communication at a later date.
If you need any further help on this issue then please call the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.
By Nicola Mullineux