We are getting an increasing number of calls about social media problems. We have seen a particular rise in queries about social media and employment - inappropriate posting on Facebook/Twitter seems to be a hot topic right now. We do not know whether this is because employers are becoming more aware, employees more careless, or simply because social media use and access to it, is growing, but there is no doubt that businesses need to look at how they (and their employees) use (or abuse!) social media.
This is the second of our social media and employment ezine series. This issue is going to take a brief look at social media policies.
What is a social media policy?
A social media policy sets out the behaviour your organisation expects with regard to social media. It is a clear, written guide for your organisation and the people who work for you.
Why do we need one?
A social media policy:
Provides clear guidelines for anyone working for your organisation, letting them know the standard of behaviour expected, what sort of social media issues may lead to disciplinary proceedings and sanctions, and about any monitoring you do.
- Helps your organisation comply with laws, such as the Data Protection Act and the Equality Act.
- Helps you fulfil your duty of care to your employees (for example, protecting them from harassment).
- Helps you put in place good data management practices.
- Helps you discipline employees for misuse of social media.
Helps to protect you from liability if your staff misuse social media.
What should a social media policy contain?
Many businesses already have policies about email and phone use. If you do, you could consider building your social media policy on to that policy.
Your social media policy needs to distinguish clearly between personal social media use and use during work time or that affects the workplace. Employees and others working with your organisation are entitled to personal lives and personal views. The Human Rights Act 1998 protects the right to private and family life, home and correspondence and Employment Tribunals have been very clear there must be exceptional circumstances for employers to discipline staff for incidents in their private lives.
As a minimum, you will probably want your social media policy to cover:
- Use of social media in work time.
- Social networking sites, including blogging and tweeting.
- Mentioning the organisation in a derogatory way or otherwise damaging its reputation.
- Cyber bullying and harassment (it is a good idea to cross reference this with your equal opportunities, and bullying and harassment policies).
- Use of company property (for example, company laptops or smart phones).
- House keeping rules about keeping data safe (if information is sent out of the workplace, how is it secured?).
- Clear rules about who owns social media sites that are about the organisation and the contacts they generate.
- How social media fits with the organisations aims and objectives.
- Whether you monitor social media/internet use during work hours.
- What disciplinary action and what disciplinary sanctions might apply, and in what circumstances.
You may want to provide separate guidelines for employees who use social media on behalf of the organisation. This can be part of your social media policy or a separate policy.
In addition, technology changes really quickly so it is a good idea to make your policy applicable to all social media, rather than tying it to certain websites or technologies. Plus, because of the quickly changing nature of social media, you will need to review your policy regularly.
How do we introduce a social media policy?
Once you have a policy you want to introduce, it is a good idea to consult with your workforce about it and ideally, get their agreement to the policy in writing. There are some special considerations if you are introducing monitoring. Employers can monitor use of the internet and work communications, but only in limited circumstances and usually, with the consent of the people you are monitoring. If you are introducing monitoring, or changing employee’s terms and conditions, it is sensible to have a full consultation process and ensure that you get agreement in writing.
If you are making minor policy changes, you may not need to go through a formal consultation process.
However you introduce the policy it is important that your staff know about it and understand it. You need to communicate it clearly to your staff and may want to consider introducing training for them, and ensuring that the policy is included in your induction for new staff members.
We hope that this ezine has been helpful and if you have any questions about the legal implications of social media policies, or any other legal issues with which we can help, please do give us a call on 0870 0434284.