Smart phones, internet, social media sites, e-mails, tweeting, blogging – social networking – we have accepted all of these innovations as part of our working and daily lives – they help us to work more flexibly, stay in touch for longer and respond to each other more quickly.

But several surveys and employment tribunal cases, from varying perspectives in the UK and globally, have shown that employers need to provide clear guidance to staff regarding how they use social networking sites, to ensure staff use the sites responsibly and are careful about what they say online.

We look at what you should have in place in our article here, including:

  • Social networking and recruitment
  • performance at work – issues
  • defamation and privacy, misconduct
  • in the employees own time
  • for Business Purposes

Although some employers would like to ban the use of social networking sites by staff while at work completely, many believe this is not necessary.

Instead, the best advice would be for employers to have a Social Media Policy (on it’s own or as part of an e-mail / internet policy). Such a policy should:

  • Advise staff to keep their personal and professional lives separate
  • Ask staff to use a private, not work, e-mail address to register themselves on social media sites
  • Ensure staff understand that the reputation of the employer and their own profession needs to be upheld
  • Explain that the individuals and the company’s privacy and confidential information and intellectual property must be protected (as well as those of its clients and other employees)
  • Make sure that any complaints about cyber-bullying / harassment / discrimination between employees or 3rd parties are dealt with seriously
  • Explain what type of monitoring may take place by the employer and when. Monitoring is complicated as employees are entitled to a degree of privacy at work but this has to be balanced against the legitimate interests of the business in line with the Data Protection Act Code 3, Monitoring at Work
  • Explain how long and when staff can use these sites to ensure there is no loss of productivity
  • Include guidance on social media account ownership (where it is used for business purposes)
  • Advise that any breach of these policies could result in disciplinary action against the employee
  • Provide awareness training for both staff and managers on the impact of social media activities.