Employers cannot and should not ignore Social Media, which has been around long enough to pervade almost all aspects of society. Whilst the use of Social Media is still more popular in younger demographics, staff of all ages are likely to have some Social Media presence. Use of Social Media both inside and outside the workplace can create issues for employers. A well thought out and well drafted Social Media Policy can head off some of those issues by making expectations clear. A good policy can help justify disciplining or even dismissing an employee whose Social Media use has caused concern.
In drafting a Social Media Policy, employers should think about:
- Using Social Media for recruitment
- Acceptable use of Social Media at work
- Private use of Social Media
- Using Social Media to publish grievances
Use of Social Media in recruitment
Social Media might be used either to advertise a vacancy or to “vet” candidates. Both could potentially be indirectly discriminatory, as certain demographics (or people with certain “protected characteristics”) are more or less likely to use Social Media and may use it in very different ways. A Social Media Policy should set out clearly why the employer is using Social Media in recruitment, and what steps it is taking to ensure that any indirectly discriminatory effects are proportionate to what it is trying to achieve.
Employers should also take account of the Information Commissioner’s Office “Employment Practices Code”, which contains recommendations regarding pre-employment vetting.
Acceptable use at work
A Social Media Policy should confirm what is considered acceptable use in the workplace. Some organisations will want to ban use of all Social Media during working hours. Others might tolerate use only during break times. Others still might be relaxed about “reasonable” use provided that employees do not allow it to distract them from carrying out their work. The Policy should cover the use of personal phones and other devices to access Social Media as well as work equipment. It should detail if work equipment is monitored.
Whatever the policy says should be the reality. It is no use having a “zero tolerance” approach if occasional use of Social Media is in fact tolerated. Policies should also take account of whether or not employees might need to use Social Media for work purposes, such as in marketing or research.
The Social Media Policy should also set appropriate rules for those employees who use Social Media to promote the business or otherwise represent the organisation online. The culture of many Social Media platforms is increasingly to blur the personal and professional. Rules should make clear to what extent employees can express personal opinions via accounts that expressly link them to the organisation. They should be absolutely clear that any views that bring the organisation into disrepute would be treated as a disciplinary matter.
See Part 2 of this post for tips regarding private use of Social Media, including when it is used to publish grievances.
Contact Louise Taft if you have any questions about Social Media use or want to discuss a Social Media Policy
020 7935 3522
Whatever your personal circumstances the above is only a guide and we would advise you to contact us to obtain definitive advice as you will appreciate that each person’s circumstances are unique to them.