Having a clear social media policy ensures that employees are aware of what’s classed as acceptable use of the internet, social media and email and also how the use of such media will be monitored in the workplace.
Do I need a Social Media policy?
There's no legal requirement for you to have a social media policy in the UK, but we'd recommend you have one so it's clear what you expect from your employees about how they use social media when talking about or representing your workplace and when they're using social media at work. Essentially, it's better to be prepared and have clear boundaries about social media usage than to scramble to put something together when something goes wrong. We'd also say that being clear about everyone's expectations upfront means everyone knows where they stand.
What exactly does it mean when say social media?
According to Investopedia, the term social media refers to;
"a computer-based technology that facilitates the sharing of ideas, thoughts, and information through virtual networks and communities. Social media is internet-based and gives users quick electronic communication of content.."
At the time of writing this article, popular social media platforms include;
How do I police something that isn't entirely in my control?
This is a really tricky question and ultimately you could argue that restricting someone's freedom of speech impacts their human rights which obviously no employer sets out to do!
We'd suggest that you make sure you have a clear social media policy and that the policy itself is reasonable in terms of treating people fairly but also provides your business with protection. If you don't have a social media policy you might be able to rely on a disciplinary policy instead if something goes wrong, and depending on how it's drafted, although typically we'd advise you have both a social media policy and a disciplinary policy so they can work together if needed.
My employees said something bad about the company on social media, what do I do?
Make sure you have all the facts before you act, so ensure you've got screenshots and evidence of the concerns. Make sure it's clear when the comments were made and that it's clear they were made by your employee. You'll also need to consider the seriousness of the comments, the impact they have on your business and how far-reaching they are. In cases where only mild comments have been made it's unlikely that a dismissal will be found to be fair but you'll need to make a judgement call on what's acceptable. Below are a few cases to outline what we mean.
If you don't have HR support in-house, have a chat with an HR professional before you act. Initially, you might want to consider having a chat with the individual to understand what has happened before you think about potentially taking formal action depending on the nature of what's been said. Ideally, refer to your social media policy if you have one but make sure you've got all the information you need before you make a decision on next steps.
What should Social Media Policies include?
Policies around social media and the use of the internet should include;
A statement on privacy
An outline of roles and responsibilities
An overview of security protocols
An outline of how you will monitor your employees social media usage to comply with the law
Guidance for employees’ personal social media accounts
In Preece v JD Wetherspoons, a pub manager was dismissed for making negative comments about customers on her private Facebook page. Although she had privacy settings on her account the comments were passed onto others and the customer in question was identifiable.
In contrast, in Whitham v Club 24 an employee was dismissed for comments made on social media. The comments made were found to be mild and dismissing the employee for making mild comments was held to be unfair.
In Crisp v Apple, an employees use of social media gave rise to bringing Apple into disrepute, Crisp was dismissed and appealed the decision but it was held the dismissal was fair. In this case whilst the comments were made on Crisp's private Facebook page, the tribunal felt they had the potential to be much wider reaching than this and that Crisp didn't have control over the information reaching a wider audience.
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https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/social-media.asp Acceded 1/12/2022
All information within this post is provided for guidance only, always seek your own legal advice
The information with this post was correct at the time of publishing, December 2022 but may be subject to change