Social media policies: Can your business afford to be without one?
Use of social media has rocketed in recent years, with an inevitable impact on the workplace. Employers’ attitudes to it vary: some impose a strict ban, while others actively encourage it as part of a new way of working.
Whatever their approach, employers need to understand the potential impact on their business and take measures to protect themselves. As XpertHR explains, including putting in place a robust social media policy.
Employers need to be aware of the problems that can arise from the use of social media by their workforce. These range from liability for defamatory commentary about clients or competitors in employee-penned posts, to vicarious liability for discriminatory comments about colleagues.
But the potential consequence that can be most difficult and expensive to rectify is the damage to the organisation’s reputation or brand from a disgruntled employee’s online comments.
The private easily becomes public
Of course, employees have always moaned about work and their employer over a pint in the pub. But if equivalent comments are posted on Facebook, they have the potential to reach a much wider audience, with a corresponding dramatic increase in the potential for damage. And once something is “out there” on social media, it is virtually impossible to contain.
As there is no recognised etiquette for the personal use of social media in connection with employment, employers need to be proactive in setting their own standards.
“We all trust our staff are acting professional when responding to clients over social media. But without training and direction along with a written guide how can we expect our employees to act responsibily’ Martin Wright
Prevention is better than cure
A well-drafted social media policy can be used to educate the workforce about acceptable social media practices, reducing the chances of inappropriate material being posted. A failure to lay down rules about will result in uncertainty for workers about where to draw the line and a lack of understanding about the possible consequences of their actions.
The power to take action
Having a social media policy also empowers employers to take action where necessary. Where they fail to set out social media guidelines, imposing disciplinary sanctions for what they view as inappropriate use is likely to result in problems.
At the very least, lack of a clear policy could result in inconsistencies in treatment, and ill-feeling and resentment among staff. However, employers also need to remember that in the absence of a clear policy on social media use, and importantly one that has been brought to the individual’s attention, the employer is likely to face an uphill battle to convince the tribunal that it acted reasonably. With the maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal set at £68,400, this is not something employers can afford to take lightly.
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