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A global survey of 10,000 people by PwC, done to look at how the workforce would evolve in the next eight years, found more than 30 per cent of participants would willingly give their employers access to personal data such as social media profiles to enable them to better understand what made them tick.
PwC partner and HR transformation specialist Debbie Francis said there appeared to be a new way of thinking among the younger generation, who took a view that employers should be using good sources of data on the workforce, rather than seeing it as a muck-raking expedition.
"Granting data access to employers will give them the ability to better anticipate and measure performance and employee retention, and could extend to the monitoring of employees' health to reduce sick leave."
Ms Francis said that while handing over access to social media profiles relied on a high level of trust between the two parties, it was also down to the employer to demonstrate obvious incentives for doing so.
But Dundas Street Employment Law partner Susan Hornsby-Geluk said employers mainly used social media to help discipline a current employee or trawled social media sites to vet a possible candidate.
"It would be fairly creative for employers to take a more sort of pro-active approach of screening Facebook profiles to see how happy their employees are. To be frank, I'm not not aware of many employers doing that -- you would need to have a lot of time and resources."
Employers had in the past used social media to prove a staff member had taken sick leave when there was evidence on Facebook to suggest they were not ill.
Ms Hornsby-Geluk had also been involved in a case when an employee had been disciplined and then dismissed for posting derogatory comments about their employer.
Council for Civil Liberties spokesman Thomas Beagle believed that giving employers access to social media was not appropriate and blurred the line between personal and private life.
"Your personal life contains all sorts of things which is no business of your employer -- your sexuality, some of your personal history."
Of more concern to him was that staff would also be giving away a lot of their friends' privacy as well.
Mr Beagle said employers could use their access to social media profiles to try to find out if a staff member was looking for a new job.
- Nikki Preston of the NZ Herald