The media has been flooded in recent months by stories about people who made inappropriate statements on Twitter and Facebook: Penny Sparrow, Gareth Cliff, Chris Hart etc. Why should employers care what their employees post on their private social media accounts? Because it is becoming harder and harder to separate the personal from the professional.
Currently, employees who are found making offensive or harmful statements on social media can be fired and, depending on the circumstances, can even be liable for damages. This is because the employee-employer relationship is based on the utmost good faith. Why then do you need a social media policy?
- If your employees have clarity about what is acceptable behaviour, they are more likely to behave prudently when it comes to what they post.
- You can protect yourself against liability for the actions of your employees.
- A clear policy makes it easier to manage performance.
Here are some of the aspects you need to consider when drafting such a policy:
- It should give clear guidelines on what behaviour you regard as acceptable both at work and at home. Use examples.
- The use of social media and work e-mail on an employee’s device can open your network up to malware and viruses. Your policy should cover what security measures employees must follow and should restrict the downloading of unauthorised software.
- Employees should be educated on the privacy settings on social media sites.
- The policy should regulate an employer’s access to and monitoring of employee e-mail and social media accounts. Research has shown that employees are more careful if they think that their employer is watching.
- The sharing of company information should be regulated.
- Are employees allowed to associate their employer with their comments and, if so, how must they brand it.
Above all, ensure that your policy is practical, fair and accessible and that employees receive the necessary training.