The recent case of Smith –v- Trafford Housing Trust has highlighted the difficulties employers face with social media and its relationship in the workplace. Here we summarise some practical tips employers are recommended to follow when considering how to address the use of social media.
- Employers should have in place properly drafted and communicated social media policies which explain to employees the risks associated with social networking – this will need to be reviewed on a regular basis as the social media world is fast evolving.
- Social Media policies should be linked to other policies, where relevant, including confidentiality policies, harassment and bullying policies and internet/email usage policies to ensure a consistent approach.
- Employers should review any policies that attempt to regulate their employees conduct outside of the workplace to ensure this is proportionate.
- Employers should educate employees about the consequences of disclosing or misusing the company’s confidential information or intellectual property in the social media context.
- As a general rule, views expressed on social media should be treated in the same way as those expressed in a non-virtual setting. However bear in mind that those expressed on social media can be viewed and commented on well after the event and may have a greater impact on some employees than those made in a non-virtual setting.
- Employers should carefully consider the nature of any comments made on social media and the likely harm these comments will have on their employees, clients or third parties before commencing any disciplinary action.
- In putting social media policies in place, employers should note that disproportionate restrictions can undermine employee morale and invite non-compliance therefore it is important to strike the right balance between the protection of its employees and their freedom of speech.
For further information on the case of Smith –v- Trafford please see our blog article of 3 December 2012 below.