19
Wed, Feb

When socialising becomes business battering

Phil Thompson, head of BPIF Business, looks at the downside of social media and the protocols you should have in place in terms of staff involvement.

Use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites have increased with astonishing speed. Companies are realising the benefits of being involved with these innovative routes to market, however, often they have been slow to appreciate and put in place processes and procedures to diminish the negative affects on the business. As such, the use of social medial by employees is becoming and increasing problem for employers.  Specific protocols are necessary to manage issues that can arise.

Employees have been using social media to communicate their dissatisfaction with their employer and to conduct themselves in a way that could amount to harassment of co-workers. As a result, employers are at risk both from ensuing Tribunal claims from the victims and also from damage to their business. There are a multitude of areas that could be affected by this.

Harassment of work colleagues via social media is as much an issue for employers as it would be face-to-face. However, since much of this harassment may take place outside working hours it comes with special problems in terms of disciplinary action.  If it “brings the company into disrepute” it is more likely that a dismissal for such conduct would be considered fair.

Any monitoring of employees’ social media accounts could fall foul of the Data Protection Act. Employees have been known to set up dummy pages purporting to be their employer, set up pages specifically to target their employer and other employees, make harassing and defamatory comments on their own social media pages and even set up dummy pages purporting to be other work colleagues

Employees engaging in this activity may not be identifiable and could spend a lot of their day accessing social media sites, As such, employers must be quite clear about what is and is not acceptable use of social media sites during working hours and what is and is not acceptable use of social media sites outside of working hours.

As case law develops it is becoming clear that dismissal for “abuse” of social media sites is much more likely to be considered fair if the employer has a properly promulgated social media policy in place.

Strategies

Decide at board level what your company’s attitude is to use of social media and ensure you have a specific social media policy in place that reflects the board’s view. It should also include information on the following:

·      If personal use is allowed, make it clear that access will be withdrawn if this benefit is abused

·      Be clear about the kind of information that may or may not be communicated when using both corporate and social networking websites

·      Be cautious about discussing confidential matters when networking. Staff should be made aware of the consequences of misuse

·      Confidentiality agreements for those members of staff who have access to sensitive information about the company

·      Remind staff that they are representing the company in any social networking they may be involved in. Any defamatory comments may be dealt with under the company disciplinary procedures

·      Company logo and trademarks may not be used without explicit permission in writing from the company

·      Promote engagement by encouraging your staff to come up with different ways of employing such mediums to help them undertake their roles for effectively

Ensure that the policy is properly circulated, be consistent in any subsequent disciplinary action and be aware of other civil claims for defamation which could be brought even though they are expensive and have an uncertain outcome.

Future developments

As the use of social media becomes absolutely second nature employers are going to have to continue to move with the times and ensure their own policies in this area are kept up to date. With all new technology innovations, there are going always going to be positives and negatives, but being open and clear about where the business stands with the use and how to best exploit these will ensure that the business is able to enjoy the benefits and mitigate against the negatives.

Use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites have increased with astonishing speed. Companies are realising the benefits of being involved with these innovative routes to market, however, often they have been slow to appreciate and put in place processes and procedures to diminish the negative affects on the business. As such, the use of social medial by employees is becoming and increasing problem for employers.  Specific protocols are necessary to manage issues that can arise.

Employees have been using social media to communicate their dissatisfaction with their employer and to conduct themselves in a way that could amount to harassment of co-workers. As a result, employers are at risk both from ensuing Tribunal claims from the victims and also from damage to their business. There are a multitude of areas that could be affected by this.

Harassment of work colleagues via social media is as much an issue for employers as it would be face-to-face. However, since much of this harassment may take place outside working hours it comes with special problems in terms of disciplinary action.  If it “brings the company into disrepute” it is more likely that a dismissal for such conduct would be considered fair.

Any monitoring of employees’ social media accounts could fall foul of the Data Protection Act. Employees have been known to set up dummy pages purporting to be their employer, set up pages specifically to target their employer and other employees, make harassing and defamatory comments on their own social media pages and even set up dummy pages purporting to be other work colleagues

Employees engaging in this activity may not be identifiable and could spend a lot of their day accessing social media sites, As such, employers must be quite clear about what is and is not acceptable use of social media sites during working hours and what is and is not acceptable use of social media sites outside of working hours.

As case law develops it is becoming clear that dismissal for “abuse” of social media sites is much more likely to be considered fair if the employer has a properly promulgated social media policy in place

Strategies

Decide at board level what your company’s attitude is to use of social media and ensure you have a specific social media policy in place that reflects the board’s view. It should also include information on the following:

  •  If personal use is allowed, make it clear that access will be withdrawn if this benefit is abused.
  •  Be clear about the kind of information that may or may not be communicated when using both corporate and social networking websites.
  •  Be cautious about discussing confidential matters when networking. Staff should be made aware of the .consequences of misuse
  • Confidentiality agreements for those members of staff who have access to sensitive information about the company.
  •  Remind staff that they are representing the company in any social networking they may be involved in. Any defamatory comments may be dealt with under the company disciplinary procedures.
  • Company logo and trademarks may not be used without explicit permission in writing from the company.
  •  Promote engagement by encouraging your staff to come up with different ways of employing such mediums to help them undertake their roles for effectively.

Ensure that the policy is properly circulated, be consistent in any subsequent disciplinary action and be aware of other civil claims for defamation which could be brought even though they are expensive and have an uncertain outcome.

Future developments

As the use of social media becomes absolutely second nature employers are going to have to continue to move with the times and ensure their own policies in this area are kept up to date. With all new technology innovations, there are going always going to be positives and negatives, but being open and clear about where the business stands with the use and how to best exploit these will ensure that the business is able to enjoy the benefits and mitigate against the negatives.

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