By Employment and Privacy Law Partner, Carl Atkinson
Make it clear
It is important to give accurate instructions on how you want employees to use social media at work, in relation to your business. For example, if employees are permitted to use social media on the mobiles during work hours, should it be expected that they share thoughts and observations on their workplace environment. Would it be possible to ban the use of mobile phones in your work environment? What impact would that have? If you consider banning the use of mobile phones, then possibly allow use during breaks. However, do you have an alternative method of emergency contact, as this may be requested by some employees.
Support your social media policy
Once you have established a social media policy which clarifies what online behaviour the business will not accept from employees. Support the policy with update/refresher training and briefings. This will help to avoid the suggestion that the policy “exists in name only”. Ensure your social media policy is explicit over what type of online behaviour will not be tolerated by the business. Otherwise it will be difficult to persuade a tribunal that disciplinary proceedings are “reasonable”.
Join up your policies
Make sure that all your policies are “joined up”. If an employee could be dismissed for online behaviour which brings the business into disrepute. Consider adding this to the list of examples of gross misconduct which should be set out in your disciplinary policy. If the policy specifically states that dismissal could be an outcome for this type of behaviour. It should be more straightforward to satisfy a tribunal that dismissal was within a range of reasonable responses.
Who owns social media?
Review the ownership of social media accounts, brands, contacts and groups. If you consider that these should be owned by the business and they are not, ask the employee to transfer ownership to the business. If necessary, link the transfer to a pay review or promotion to avoid objection.