Implementing an effective social media policy
By Minal Backhouse, Backhouse Solicitors
March 23 2016 - Social media's presence in the workplace grows more prolific by the day, and as such is impacting the way in which managers, employees and even job applicants communicate. More and more, organisations find themselves in the public eye in ways beyond their control, affecting their reputation and the way in which they engage in promotional activities.
Appointing someone to specifically manage your organisation's social media channels is a good way to standardise any outgoing messaging from your company. Implementing a social media policy for employees will provide guidance for them.
Developing a social media policy and then releasing it across the workforce sounds simple enough, but is not without its difficulties. Commissioned by ACAS, a research paper from the Institute of Employment Studies suggests employers take a 'common sense stance' when regulating online behaviour with policies - this will help the employer protect itself against any liabilities.
The line between employees' private and business use of social media is often blurred, and so it's important for the social media policy to make a clear distinction while covering both channels. Consulting your employees when drafting your new social media policy will provide insight into what they feel it should include, as well as help give a more rounded, 'fair' point of view.
According to ACAS a social media policy should include the following points:
- Network security: the downloading of software should be controlled by the organisation
- Acceptable behaviour within the use of internet, emails, smartphones, hand-held computers, social networking sites, blogging and tweeting: this involves implementing and updating policies in line with technology developments and changes in employee behaviour
- Data protection and monitoring: employers need to justify any social media monitoring, and should seek alternative solutions where possible
- Business objectives: for employers wishing to integrate social media into their own business strategy, a clear set of internal and external guidelines should be in place for all employees
- Disciplinary procedures: the same code of employee conduct should be applied to online matters as offline matters
- Intellectual property: any materials pertaining to creativity within the organisation should be clearly defined by the employer
The following laws should influence the application of an effective social media policy in the workplace:
- The Human Rights Act 1998 gives a 'right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence'. Case law suggests that employees have a reasonable expectation of privacy within the workplace.
- The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 outlines the extent to which employers can monitor and record public or private network communications within their telecommunication systems.
- The Data Protection Act 1988 covers how information about employees and applicants should be collected, handled and used.
Communicating a social media policy to employees
Discuss: Employers should liaise with employees when implementing a social media policy. This is to ensure it is relevant and fair for both individuals and the wider organisation.
Maintain: In order to continue with an effective social media policy, it is vital that the information and expectations are relayed to all new starters during their induction process.
Understand: When a correct policy is in place, social media can play a valuable role in the workplace. The implications of misuse by employees, however, can be catastrophic for business and the wider economy. It is therefore essential that an effective policy is not only applied, but also understood.
Minal Backhouse, a solicitor specialising in Employment Law, heads the legal team at Backhouse Solicitors ( www.backhouse-solicitors.co.uk) and has done so since 2005. She offers her clients the best possible expertise, service and value for money.