Many employers have had to grapple with the difficulties presented by the need to regulate employees’ professional and private use of social media. The most practical way to do so is for an employer to introduce an effective social media policy.
The growing problem of social media and work
A recently reported Freedom of Information request revealed that there has been a rise in the number of UK council workers suspended last year after being accused of breaking social media rules.
The request highlighted that a significant number of employees are disciplined and even dismissed for breaching social media policies. This underlines the importance for organisations to have robust policies in place and to put them into practice to make sure that appropriate action can be and is taken if the rules are breached.
If an employee is dismissed for a breach of social media rules but the policy is not properly worded then an employer is at risk of a possible claim against them for unfair dismissal. You can see a previous article on this topic here.
Our Top 10 Tips for employers
Below are our top 10 tips on how to approach drafting and implementing a social media policy to make it as robust and comprehensive as possible, yet remain practical in its application:
- Ensure that your social media policy is well-worded, unambiguous and comprehensive in what is and is not covered by it. Ambiguity can lead to potential problems.
- Specify which types of posts and activities are being regulated to make the policy as clear as possible.
- Tailor the policy to fit your business and business needs. If online marketing is a key to your business model, then a social media policy should allow the utilisation of such media platforms but in a controlled manner that limits associated risks.
- Distinguish between restrictions that are applicable at work and those which will also continue outside of the work place. The potential consequences of failing to do so have been highlighted in recent case law.
- Ensure that your social media policy expressly states that any misuse of social media by employees can constitute gross misconduct (whether inside work or outside of work) – this should be expressly stated so that it is clear that a breach of the policy may amount to gross misconduct and to help employees appreciate the serious consequences that breaches can have.
- Consider how to approach situations where an inappropriate post has been made on an employee’s social media account by another individual – it may be useful to cover this within the policy for clarity.
- Be mindful of data protection and how information is obtained regarding employee misuse of social media (public information and tip-offs from other employees are generally not an issue).
- Request that employees have separate personal and work accounts for social media, such as for using Twitter, where appropriate.
- Consider how the implementation of the social media policy interacts with the use of other company policy documents and update them accordingly. Applicable policies would be your IT policy and disciplinary policy, for example.
- Offer training and modules for employees concerning the application of the company’s social media policy. These should cover what is expected of employees, possible consequences of breaching the rules and should be signed off by the employee once completed.
Get in touch
If you are an employer and are concerned about how you can regulate the use of social media by your employees then contact a member of our employment law team.
We can advise you on best practices and also assist in drafting robust and well-worded social media policies tailored to suit you to ensure that your business can effectively manage and regulate the use of social media by your employees.