Social media usage has increased dramatically over recent years and issues around its use and misuse are now some of the more frequent reasons why employers may consider disciplinary proceedings against employees. A recent Freedom of Information enquiry by BBC Radio Five Live, published by People Management in January 2016, showed that although the number of council employees who received a warning in 2015 for breaching social media guidelines was 4% down on the figure for 2014, the number of those suspended was 19% higher.
The speed of change around social media is phenomenal, new ways of communicating are emerging all the time and there is no specific legislation which deals with social media. There are however a number of areas which can cause difficulty for an employer e.g. damage to image or reputation, breaches of confidentiality or privacy, the cyber-bullying of employees or employees failing to maintain a work-life balance due to the increased use of technology.
It is vital that all employees understand that when they are posting on their personal social media sites or apps, even with privacy settings in place, that their posts are permanent and that they have no control over how far they are circulated by others. As a result posting on social media can have an impact on both the person’s employment and their employer whether or not they intend for this to be the case. Social media usage is only likely to increase and it is important that employers take steps to protect themselves and their employees which they can do as follows:-
- Develop a Social Media policy
An appropriate social media policy will ensure that your employees are fully aware of your expectations of their conduct in this area and should:-
- Include details of the organisation’s expectation of conduct around the use of social media.
- Explain what is and is not acceptable usage of social media both within and outside the workplace.
- Confirm whether personal use of organisation equipment, internet and emails is permitted and if so what boundaries are applicable.
- Make it clear what employees are not permitted to include in their own social media postings.
- Remind employees to periodically check their privacy settings.
- Make any restrictions clear.
- Make it clear what the possible disciplinary sanctions may be if the policy is breached.
2. Include in Induction
Requirements around social media usage should be covered during every employee’s induction. Records should be kept which show that this has been done.
3. Provide Periodic Training
It is not enough to just adopt a policy on social media, it is also important to communicate the policy and your expectations and to document that this has been carried out periodically.
Employers also need to ensure that they use social media appropriately e.g. when recruiting and be aware of the potential risks involved.
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