Social Media at Work

Posted 29th April 2013

Written by Malcolm Jones

Some businesses welcome social media as a way of promoting the firm, attracting staff and building a family around their brand.

Others are worried about staff wasting time, disclosing confidential data and damage to their reputation.

The use of social media continues to growFacebook now has over one billion users and has registered one seventh of the world’s population. Twitter has more than 500 million users and there are 750 tweets every second.  Good news about a business can reach a large audience very quickly.  Any mistakes can stay around for a very long time.

The line between private life and business life is increasingly blurred. A Christian employee successfully sued his employer when he was demoted and his pay cut by 40% for comments he wrote on Facebook about gay marriages – even though his comments were not visible to the general public and were posted outside work time.

Large businesses have considered the issues and prepared policies on what can be done in their name and in their time.  Now smaller firms need to follow suit.

Social media policies often include:

  • restrictions on the time that can be spent using social media at work;
  • prohibitions on negative comments about the business, its employees, business contacts or competitors;
  • examples of what may constitute defamatory comments;
  • an explanation of the risks of misusing confidential information, intellectual property and personal data;
  • where employees are asked to blog or tweet for business purposes, guidance on appropriate content and tone;
  • disciplinary procedures for breach of the policy, including clear sanctions for online bullying, discrimination and harassment;
  • how the firm monitors the use or misuse that is being made of social media.

A policy is useless unless staff are trained and accept it as appropriate.  A survey in the US revealed that two thirds of job applicants ask about social media policies at interviews and 56% either turn down jobs due to a lack of social media access or ignore the policy once they start the job.

Any policy needs to be kept up to date.  No doubt social media will not last as long as the post, telex, fax and emails have done.  Its replacement is probably now being tested somewhere in the third world.

For more information on social media policies or any other employment matters, please give Newtons Solicitors a call.  Come in for a free 30-minute consultation and we will prepare a social media policy for your business free of charge.

For more information contact Malcolm Jones on 01423 789 059 or malcolm@newtons.co.uk

The information contained in this article is intended for guidance only and is not intended to provide specific legal advice to you or your business. Expert advice on any issue should always be obtained. Newtons Solicitors Limited does not accept liability for any loss that may arise from relying on or using the information contained in this article.