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The legal implications of social media use in the workplace, including employer social media policies 

Social media has been a revolutionary tech development that has forever changed the way we live our lives. We use it for everything, from socialising with our friends and making professional connections to reading the news and watching videos. However, social media use in the workplace has given rise to a number of new issues for employers.

Let’s look at some of the legal implications of social media and how you can implement social media policies to protect your business and your staff. 

What issues can social media use in the workplace cause?

No matter what kind of business you are, most if not all of your employees will be social media users. They might use social media as part of their job, or purely outside of work. Regardless, social media use in the workplace can give rise to a range of different issues. 

Staff productivity is a big one. Studies have shown that social media is addictive, your employees could be regularly checking their phones and laptops throughout the day to see if they have any new notifications, which could distract them from their work. 

However, the biggest issue social media use in the workplace can cause is damage to your business or brand. If an employee was to post offensive material or opinions online, this could reflect extremely badly on your company and could see your sales affected. 

Furthermore, staff can sometimes inadvertently reveal sensitive business information, which could give your competitors an advantage over you or even result in a cyberattack such as a data breach. 

If a staff member caused damage to your business through their use of social media in the workplace, the natural reaction would be to discipline or dismiss them from their role. However, it is essential you follow the correct procedures when doing so to ensure you are acting within the confines of the law. Let’s find out more. 

What are the legal implications?

When you hire an employee, you will give them a contract that outlines details such as their duties, payment information, holiday allowance, as well as information regarding conduct and disciplinary procedures. 

However, if an employee damages your brand through social media use in the workplace, this might not necessarily be classed as misconduct under the terms of their contract. If you were then to move forward and fire this employee, you could be taken to a tribunal and ordered to pay compensation for unfair dismissal

For this reason, implementing a clear and defined social media policy is absolutely critical. This will provide your staff with clear guidelines about social media use in the workplace and detail disciplinary action they could face should they flout these rules. 

If you have a policy in place, you can then use this as justification for dismissal should an employee break the rules regarding social media use in the workplace, and a tribunal would be far more likely to agree with your decision. 

Implementing a policy for social media use in the workplace

So, now we know the risks of social media use in the workplace, and the legal implications that can arise from it. How can you best implement a workplace social media policy?

Your social media policy should be distributed among all employees, old and new, and should be regularly reviewed and updated. 

First, a policy regarding social media use in the workplace must define what social media is. There are countless different social media platforms out there, from the massive to the obscure, so it’s best to describe social media in broad, general terms that can be applied to any of these platforms. 

Next, you need to outline how you expect your employees to behave when using social media in work and beyond. You must explain that if they can be connected to your business in any way, they must never bring the company into disrepute through their social media actions. 

If an employee is discussing work or has some sort of connection to your business visible on their social media profiles, your policy should instruct them to display a disclaimer explaining that their views and opinions do not reflect those of your company. 

Finally, your social media policy should clearly describe the disciplinary procedures involved should an employee be in breach of the policy. This way, you can ensure you will not be at risk of dismissing an employee illegally because of their social media use in the workplace. 

Conclusion 

Social media is an integral part of our everyday lives. As an employer, it’s impossible to stop your staff from using social channels, but it’s essential that you mitigate the risk of any damage that can be caused by social media use in the workplace. Use the advice we’ve outlined in this guide to design and implement a comprehensive social media policy.