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Bosses fume as staff spend 'hour a day' on social sites

TRY as they might, employers can't keep their workers off Facebook and Twitter.

Most Irish workers spend nearly an hour of their working day browsing through social networking sites.

Looking up social media takes an average of 56 minutes of the working day for more than 80pc of Irish employees, according to one of the country's biggest law firms, Dublin-based William Fry.

Even though 40pc of companies have imposed work-time bans on social media websites, workers are using smart phones or tablets rather than work computers to get around the restrictions.

The report claims that 46pc of Irish employers do not have a social media policy in place, which William Fry said left businesses open to risks such as online bullying of staff and the loss of social media-based client connections.

William Fry associate Catherine O'Flynn said there was a limited value to placing absolute restrictions on social media use by staff.

"Instead, companies should focus on defining realistic limits," she said.

Six out of 10 employees have made work-related connections through their personal social media accounts, particularly on professional networking site LinkedIn, but only a third of employers are aware of this.

These contacts can be lost when employees leave a company if their employer does not have a policy to manage this, like extending 'non-solicitation' clauses in employment contracts, which ban an employee from looking for business from contacts made in the job they have left, to include contacts made online.

Employers could also be liable for acts of bullying, harassment or discrimination by employees on social media sites, even if this is done outside working hours.

William Fry said that setting out appropriate employee conduct online would be useful in defending lawsuits.

Avina McNally, of the Small Firms Association, said employers have a problem with staff browsing social media sites.

"A company needs to put safeguards in place," she said.

mlavery @herald.ie