Rarely has the term ‘grey area’ been more appropriate than in the context of employment law and social media.
Employers have struggled to keep pace with the impact of sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin, and when matters take a legal turn with an employee or customer it can be a complicated matter.
As there is no specific regulation of social media, existing employment and data protection laws apply, yet these only address part of the problem. Social media presents a wide range of potential pitfalls in the workplace. Listed here are just a small few with our tips for handling any issues.
Status updates on social networks are covered by libel and defamation laws. Liability can arise from content posted by an organisation itself or by anyone who posts to its official site. This is where a workplace policy on what is appropriate to post and who is empowered to do so is important, along with a suitable disclaimer, moderation and ‘take down’ policy.
When recruiting new staff, employers have a legal responsibility to inform applicants if they intend to use social media for vetting purposes. In such cases, this should be proportionate to the role and should be non-discriminatory.
Time-wasting in the workplace
Employers may monitor their employees’ use of social media, although this will need to comply with data protection laws, as with any other employee monitoring, and employees should be given clear guidance about what constitutes excessive use.
Who owns the address book?
An employee could build a powerful list of online contacts in work time and then take these with them if they leave. However, employers are entitled to access details of contacts created by their employees in the course of their employment, and should oblige employees to ask relevant new contacts to also connect to the company’s social media page. In the case of Linkedin for example, it is against the user agreement to share personal log-in details with anyone else (including your employer), hence the need for a social media presence such as a company page to capture mutually beneficial data.
Get a Policy: There is considerable freedom for employers to dictate what constitutes
acceptable use by employees through the use of an internal social media policy. This may extend to include personal profiles where there is an impact on the organisation.
Follow Procedures: Set time aside to regularly monitor and revue staff behaviour and performance online. Continually review your policies and procedures.
Be transparent: Ensure that you post an appropriate disclaimer on your social media profile, and oblige staff to do so.
For a more thorough review of matters affecting your business and for help writing your social media policy, contact us today.
The author of this article was Tom Simpson, Solicitor, Harold Stock & Co Solicitors.
You can contact Tom by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 01457 836 152.