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Social media: is your policy up to date?

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Social media: is your policy up to date?

Do you know what your employees can and cannot say about their job on social media? For those of you who are yet to embrace the Twittersphere, is your social media policy up to scratch?

With the rise of the selfie and the seeming need for many to post every thought and opinion on social media for the world to see, it is likely that at some point or another many employers will find themselves on the wrong end of a disgruntled employee’s derogatory, demeaning or potentially damaging post.  For those of you that are yet to embrace the Twittersphere I’m afraid it’s time to take stock and prepare for its inevitable existence in your business, failure to have appropriate policies and training in place may make dealing with such matters far more complicated than needs be.

As a still relatively new area (in legal terms at least) case law is slowly expanding and giving employers some clarity on what they need to think about if facing just such an issue. What’s becoming apparent is that dismissal on the grounds of conduct for inappropriate use of social media is potentially fair, even if the tweet/post/blog/Instagram/myspace etc. was made some time ago. However, employees have successfully raised as part of their Defence to such a dismissal that there was no clear social media policy in place, other cases have seen employer’s saved by the fact their policies are clear and comprehensive. The message is clear: you need a social media policy.

What should a social media policy include?

Your social media policy should look to cover numerous points, for example:

  • What your employees can and cannot say regarding their work on social media
  • What devices and sites can be used, if any, during office hours
  • What is appropriate use of company e-mail
  • Examples of what may be deemed gross misconduct
  • Your values – what must the employee uphold in representing your business

Whilst a well drafted policy may be your saving grace it does not give you carte blanche to fire away. ACAS guidelines must still be followed and if you have a disciplinary procedure in place so must that. Each case must be considered on its merits and a fair procedure followed. This includes thoroughly investigating the alleged conduct.

I know that the idea of more paperwork and more policies is not an attractive one to most, however, in this case I’m afraid as an employer you really need to take the time and prepare yourselves fully. This may just save you many a sleepless night (and dare I say more legal fees) down the line.

If you have any questions regarding any of the above, are facing a similar circumstance as that referenced, or want to discuss obtaining a social media policy then please do not hesitate to contact us, we would be happy to assist.

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