Do you have a Social Media Policy at work?

It is crucial that your business has a policy relating to the use by all employees of Social Media.

We are all well aware of the capacity for information and material to go ‘viral’, particularly with social media being an essential tool in modern communication.

The availability and immediacy of social media resulting from smart phones and ipads has also blurred the line between work and home life. This can result in many challenges in seeking to educate employees as to the danger to which employers can be exposed in situations where employees use work time for non-work or social exchanges.

It could expose employees to the termination of his/her employment.

BUSINESS ATTITUDE TOWARDS SOCIAL MEDIA

The first thing that you should do is decide on your attitude towards the use of social media in the workplace. There is no doubt that your employees can be great brand ambassadors for your business and should be encouraged to help build your business brand online, and in those circumstances there can be no greater advocate then a passionate and committed employee.

However there can be many dangers in the use of social media and they include bullying, defamation, harassment, stalking, trolling, disclosure of commercially sensitive information and breaches of a company’s intellectual property.

YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY SHOULD:- 

  1. set time limits both as to times when social media may be used (e.g. morning tea/coffee break or particular down time), and limits as to the amount of time that can be spent on social media.
  2. stipulate that workplace disputes must not be discussed in any social media forum.

  3. stipulate that employees must not make disparaging comments about work colleagues or the workplace or workplace policies on social media.

  4. indicate that employees must not attach the company logo to their social media transmissions.

It is important that employers be consistent in dealing with any breaches of social media policy. In circumstances where some employees are disciplined for various posts while others get away with it, an employer can find such inconsistency will come back to haunt them if disciplinary issues follow.

Although an employer cannot control employees in their private time away from the work place, employees should be cautioned to be careful not to disparage their employer or other employees in social media away from the workplace or out of workplace hours. They must also refrain from commenting about clients of the business or about particular work being performed by the business.

The social networking policy must be publicised in the workplace and brought to the attention of employees, and it is best if all employees sign an acknowledgement that they have read and understood the social networking Policy.

GUIDELINES TO REMEMBER:-

  1. the internet is not anonymous, nor does it forget

  2. there is not necessarily any clear line these days between work life and personal life. Always be honest and respectful in both capacities.

  3. avoid hazardous materials – that is, do not post or link to any materials that are defamatory, harassing or indecent.

  4. maintain confidentiality - that is, do not post anything that relates to the employer or its clients.

  5. do not ‘return fire’ on social media during work time (in fact best not to do so at any time).

  6. do not offer advice on social media during work time.

In implementing a social media Policy or Code of Conduct in a business it is important that the policy:-

  1. incorporates a definition of social media.

  2. is consistent with the employer’s own approach in how it uses social media websites.

  3. is consistent with the employer’s values, reputation and other workplace policies ( including those relating to bullying, harassment, discrimination and confidentiality).

  4. contains a clear definition of who the social media policy applies to.

  5. sets out when social media websites can be accessed.

  6. clarifies what employees can and cannot write on social media websites about colleagues, the employer, clients of the business, and whether the employee is authorised to represent the business in any of his/her comments on social media websites.

  7. may include a positive obligation on employees to report any breach of the policy by other employees.

  8. sets out disciplinary procedures for breach of the policy.

It is also crucial that both employers and employees are aware that the content of any company owned laptop, ipad or cell phone, including blogs and comment written during company time, belong to the company.

It is worth noting that in a recent case determined by Fair Work Australia an employer was ordered to re-instate an employee who had been dismissed for making derogatory and harassing comments about two managers, which comments were posted on the employee’s personal facebook page. FWA judged that the dismissal was unfair because the employer did not have a social media policy in place that provided for the disciplining and termination of employees whose conduct could be deemed inappropriate.