Following his People Hour webinar on the topic, Employment partner Carl Atkinson lays out these top tips to help ensure that your policy navigates the minefield of social media in the workplace.
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 do consider banning the use of mobile phones (possibly allowing use during breaks) do you have an alternative method of emergency contact, as this may be requested by some employees.
Once you have established a social media policy which clarifies what online behaviour the business will and 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”. It will be difficult to persuade a tribunal that disciplinary proceedings are “reasonable” if your social media policy is not explicit over what type of online behavior will not be tolerated by the business.
Make sure that all your policies are “joined up”. If an employee could be dismissed for online behavior 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 behavior, it should be more straightforward to satisfy a tribunal that dismissal was within a range of reasonable responses.
Review the ownership of social media accounts, brands, contacts, groups etc. 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.