WhatsApp is convenient. Just like social media, it’s part of most people’s daily lives and it’s become common practice for workplaces to use WhatsApp for regular work conversations. But if an employee refuses to use it for work purposes it can become a bit tricky.
A legal form of communication?
Under SA’s Electronic Communications and Transactions Act, WhatsApp is a legitimate method of communication. However, formal actions like notices of disciplinary, retrenchment or termination cannot be communicated via WhatsApp, as specific legal procedures must be followed.
The recent increase in work from home and hybrid working opportunities has resulted in businesses relying more and more on WhatsApp for regular work conversations, by both employer and employee. Whether or not you can be forced to use WhatsApp for work purposes is a bit of a grey area in South African law, and both parties need to reach a mutual understanding after having considered factors like:
- Is it is a recognised company policy to use WhatsApp for work communication?
- Is it part of your employment contract that you agree to use WhatsApp for work communication?
- Have been given a company phone/laptop/computer that you are expected to use WhatsApp from?
- Is your employer providing you with data or a data allowance as part of your pay?
- What happens if your phone is stolen or your battery is flat?
The argument on using WhatsApp for work can be made either way, and it really does depend on the specific details of your situation. Whether or not your employer can force you to use WhatsApp for work purposes depends on the above factors as well as what can be considered reasonable. We always advise speaking to a lawyer who can assess your matter individually and give you comprehensive legal advice.
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* This is only basic legal advice and cannot be relied on solely. The information is correct at the time of being sent to publishing.