February 6, 2017

Social Media Policy For Employees- Why You May Still Be Vulnerable

Social Media Policy

Social Media Policy For Employees-  Why You May Still Be Vulnerable

Social media is embedded in our society as a means of engaging and interacting with others in a professional and personal capacity. There are many social media sites with large numbers of users (including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Youtube, Google+, Whatsapp, Tumblr and Pinterest – to name a few) and the list is growing.

All business’ should consider implementing a social media policy as part of the business’ human resource policies.

Social media policies serve two purposes:

  1. To provide guidance to employees on how to use social media
  2. To provide employers recourse to disciplinary action if the employee breaches the policy

Employees’ use of social media outside the workplace can have a significant impact on their employer. Therefore, it is prudent for social media policies to include social media use outside working hours, in addition, to use while the employee is at work.

Clauses to include in your social media policy

A social media policy should cover the following:

  1. Who the policy applies to
  2. What is acceptable and unacceptable use of social media
  3. Use of the employer’s internet connection and devices to access social media
  4. Whether any use of social media during work hours is permitted
  5. Consequences of breaching the social media policy such as disciplinary procedures

What sort of behaviour can I address in the social media policy?

Your social media policy needs to be lawful and reasonable, and should support employees who choose to use social media. Any restrictions that you place on employee behaviour need to be in place to protect your business. This can include your business’ reputation, confidentiality and security. Examples of behavior more commonly prohibited by social media policies include:

  1. Posting or ‘sharing’ offensive, obscene, defamatory, harassing, bullying, discriminatory or unlawful comments or images in relation to the employee’s work, a staff member or the business
  2. The employee pretending or implying that they are expressing the views of the employer
  3. Using the employer’s letterhead, logo, branding or email signature without permission, or using a work email address to register personal social media accounts
  4. Sharing confidential information
  5. Discussing disputes or grievances about the employer
  6. Using social media in a way that harms reputation
  7. Use of social media that breaches another workplace policy

Am I still at risk if I have a social media policy?

As with all human resource policies, social media policies are only useful if they are tailored to your business and kept up-to-date and in use. Your social media policy should be broad enough to encompass all types of social media and still be specific to your business’ industry and operational requirements. It should also not go so far as to intrude on your employees’ right to use social mediate in their capacity as private citizens. Once you have a social media policy in place, you need to make sure employees understand the policy and that it is applied consistently.

It is a good idea to provide training around the social media policy. Training can include guidance on using privacy settings on social media accounts and what is and isn’t appropriate having regard to the social media policy. Employees can also be asked to sign off stating that they have read and agree to abide by the policy.

Employers can be liable in situations where an employee bullies or harasses a colleague, even if it takes place out of work hours and online. In order to reduce this risk, it is important that you follow the disciplinary procedures in the social media policy (and your bullying and harassment policy).

What can I do if my employee breaches the policy?

If your employee breaches your social media policy, you need to take steps to investigate and if necessary and appropriate, commence disciplinary action in accordance with the policy. If you don’t consistently and fairly apply the policy, it may be more difficult to rely on it later on.

Prior to implementing any social media policy, or taking disciplinary action for a breach of your existing social media policy, we encourage you to seek legal advice.

Need advice ? Talk to the Employment Law Team at Rouse Lawyers. Contact us today!