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Social media in the workplace. Love it or loath it, no-one can deny the huge impact that technology has upon our day-to-day lives. It has created many opportunities for business too – freeing us from our desks and sharing information quickly and easily.
Social media crosses over our work and personal lives. It’s great for keeping in touch regardless of time and location on a personal and business level. Employers need to find the right balance between the advantages of social media and any potential problems that could occur from employee misuse.
This problem is surprisingly common. The Independent reported that UK Police forces had to deal with over 800 potential breaches of social media guidelines by officers and civilian staff.
So – as an employer with social media facilities what should you be doing to reduce the possible risks but still reap the benefits?
- What is – and what is not – acceptable use of social medias in the workplace
- Introducing a comprehensive policy which explains the employer’s position regarding social media
“Clear communication is essential,” says Matthew from Consensus HR. “Your company could introduce set times in the day that employee are allowed access social media, such as during break times. Some employers introduce systems that give an employee a set amount of time per day to access the internet, such as 20 minutes. After that access is restricted.”
He adds: “The product or service our client offers will influence what is acceptable and what is not. Ultimately, honesty and trust are needed.”
A clearly defined policy ensures that all members of the team know where they stand regarding the use of social media whilst in the workplace. A comprehensive policy must also state that the guidelines apply outside of work as social media tends to be accessible everywhere.
“Employees need to remember that items they post on social media could be read by anyone and could affect the reputation of the company. This could result in disciplinary action being taken against them,” explains Matthew.
Employers need to ensure that when dealing with this act of misconduct that the punishment fits the crime. Should it proceed to an Employment Tribunal (ET) evidence will re required. Evidence regarding the impact of the posting will be needed, such as:
- The number of ‘views’ received
- How widely it was posted
- Whether any confidential information was enclosed
An ET would also need to understand how this act has affected the business overall.
Recent cases that have gone to an ET have shown that many Claimants try to rely on the Human Rights Act 1968. They refer to their right to privacy, such as when they are not working. However ETs have been reluctant to support employees due how many social media channels operate and number of people that can see their content.
Business owners need to be aware that they can be held accountable for any discriminatory acts that take place whilst individuals are in their employment. This can also include out of work activities as employers can be vicariously liable.
As with all policies and procedure introduced to a business, the company should ensure that access to the relevant documents is easily available. This could be in a folder, or an employee handbook given as part of the induction process.
Consensus HR has attended many ETs on behalf of clients. One of the first questions asked is whether the employee has seen the document, read it and had the opportunity to ask questions. Otherwise, were they simply given it on their first day and asked to sign it as with all the other documents needed?
“Managers should sit down with each member of their team and they should read the policy together,” says Matthew. “This confirms all employees’ understanding of the company’s social media – and wider internet – policy. Everyone knows what it actually means in the workplace, how it affects them personally and what the repercussions could be for failure to adhere to it.”
Employers need to ensure that they are also covered should the employee leave the business:
- What has been written in their Contract?
- How do they ensure they have the passwords etc. required?
- Who owns the clients listed in the programme?
- Are there any restrictive covenants in place?
As an increasing number of cases regarding social media usage reaches Employment Tribunals in the UK, employers need to act now.
For an informal chat about your company’s social media policy contact Matthew from Consensus HR via firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01462 621 423.