Social Media & the Law

Posted by Zee Hussain

Employment Partner - Colemans-ctts

Thu 23rd, Jul

Social Media is here to stay, whether it be the instantly disappearing messages from Snapchat to the more detailed blogs of Tumblr. Most employers will recognise that most of their staff now have some form of social media presence. Understanding how social media should be used at work and what businesses may need to have in place to ensure employees are not breaching any contractual obligations is crucial.Zee Hussain, Partner and Head of the Employment at Colemans-ctts provides guidance around this rather tricky subject.

Bad news travels fast

While having a social media presence can be commercially beneficial to business, many employers will be aware of the risks associated with employees’ personal accounts given how fast (bad) news can travel. To what extent an employer can take action when an employee speaks out on their social media account is a burning question. Below are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to social media use in the workplace

Do:

  • Have a policy which is clear and spells out what is acceptable conduct on social media and what is not and also provides specific examples. If you are going to monitor social media, then this should be made clear in any policy.
  • Have a strategy in place.If employees are representing your business professionally (e.g. on linked in) do ensure that their updates and profile is consistent with your brand message.
  • Take steps to protect your clients and any confidential information.Often ‘off the shelf’restrictive covenants do not prevent employees from befriending clients on social media which can be lethal if an employeejumps ship.Therefore, it is advisable to regularly review your policies in light of social media to ensure they adequately protect your business.

Don’t:

  • Leave it to chance.Not having a policy in place can mean that it becomes difficult to take action when things go wrong. The case of Game Retail Ltd v Lawssays it all.
  • Ban employees from having social media.Most people have some sort of social media account nowadays and it is part of everyday life.
  • Share employee content. Regardless of any disclaimer, sharing employee content appears to be an approval and you may find your contacts following them.
  • Overreact. If an employee remarks on Facebook that they have had a bad day, it does not automatically warrant disciplinary action and certainly may not warrant dismissal. 
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