Organisations must have a clear social media policy in place to minimise potential risks of social media engagement by employees.

With technology such as smart phone and apps more widely available, it has become extremely hard to have a clear divide between work life and personal life – especially with regards to social media. Establishing the right balance between business opportunities and potential problems surrounding misuse among staff has fast become an important challenge that employers are having to face head on.

A recent story published only last week by the Independent highlighted the problem social media has caused UK police forces, with hundreds of police officers being investigated for inappropriate social media posts. This is happening throughout UK workplaces, with many employees breaching company social media policies. Furthermore, many organisations are yet to have a social media policy in place, making them vulnerable to an array of problems that can arise from the misuse of social media by staff.

Employers should take charge to minimise the downside of social media; overall, employees should be actively encouraged to use social media for work.

Minimise risks of social media by having an effective policy in place

Social media is an extremely difficult area to cover with staff. There needs to be a time allowance for effective work use, but at the same time not so much that affects overall productivity. Furthermore, the difference between appropriate and inappropriate content needs to be unambiguously factored into a policy. Do employees know what is acceptable for work and suitable for the company brand?

A policy shouldn’t stop at work time usage. As a representative of your company, the employee should know what is considered inappropriate and the sanctions that they will face if they breach the policy. A social media policy should minimise risks of social media to the employer both in and out of working hours. For example, a controversial opinion or image shared to Facebook can potentially misrepresent the employer or customers in a defamatory way.

Disciplinary procedures need to be in place to enforce the policy, both to ensure that any action is proportionate to the damage caused and the severity of breaking the social media policy is understand by staff. Cases may lead to staff tribunal, but by having policies and procedures in place, employers can cover themselves against the risks of social media misuse by an employee – and to stop cases from escalating.

How should departing employees be managed?

Employees involved in managing company or work accounts should have terms in their contract of employment that require them to release login details on termination. This can even cover connections made, for example on Linkedin, where employees have to release a list of their connections which were made during work time (thus belong to the employer).

Although there are downsides to social media, the positives still far outweigh the risks. However, employers should still ensure that they have the necessary policies and procedures in place to cover themselves. As is the case with many employment law or HR issues, prevention is better than cure.

Do you require assistance with HR policies and procedures? Do you need help writing a contract of employment ensuring all areas are covered? Call our HR experts today on 01223 855441.