Social Media model policy

Developing A Social Networking Policy

This model policy is intended to provide an example of good practice to employers and employees and is not intended to represent a statement of any legislation. 

Before developing a social networking policy it may be worth checking your email and internet policy as this may cover many of the aspects detailed below, or with a few amendments maybe this can be expanded to cover the use of any/all/some social networking sites. The most important message in any policy covering social network sites is the clear distinction of business and personal/private use.

Why Should You Have Such a Policy?

The use of Smart 'Phones and portable devices that allow us all to remain connected at any time of day/night, as well as the office PC both at work and remotely mean that personal and professional has become increasingly  blurred, therefore:

  • A business may be exposed to risk due to the comments of its employees (vicarious liability, data protection, reputational damage/unwanted litigation etc);
  • Could result in stress/anxiety if employees are expected to always be available;
  • May result in a breach of the Employment Law in respect of breaks and rest periods.
  • Loss of productive working time, if employees are using social media excessively during working hours;
  • Ensures employees know that the use of social media can be monitored;
  • Sets out the consequences if the policy is breached, eg disciplinary action;
  • Gives employees a clear understanding of what should/not be said about the company;
  • Can be linked to restrictive covenants for post employment intellectual property, eg the ownership of  contacts an employee has made during their employment by the use of LinkedIn or other professional networking sites;
  • Can prevent damage to IT systems.

What Should A Policy Cover?

The following are examples only and should not be seen as an exhaustive list.

Increasingly businesses are seeking to professionally use social media, therefore the policy needs to set out some ground rules in relation to promoting of a business:

  • The image the business wants to project to clients;
  • Who will monitor the content of any 'public/professional' statements;
  • Will all employees have access to this facility;
  • Train those employees that will be promoting the business through this environment;
  • Protecting employees from cyber-bullying or 'trolling' from bloggers etc;
  • If using social media as a business tool an business may wish to consider having an 'escape strategy' if problems occur with the site and also state who will apply this if things go wrong.

Personal use

  • Do not post comments on work issues (or indeed about any work colleagues) online - the company's internal policies are there to address any issues within the workplace;
  • Do not disclose any business or confidential information;
  • Do not imply that the personal views of the poster are supported by or are also those of the employer;
  • Make use of the privacy settings that any site offers;
  • Ensure employees have a clear understanding of what is/not appropriate sites/language/content etc;
  • Set down a zero-tolerance of cyber-bulling and/or 'trolling' and the consequences if such actions are found to have taken place;
  • Employees should be aware that any breach of the guidelines may result in disciplinary action;

As social media is still an emerging area which can be used both professionally and personally it is important that employers take some steps to protect their business and their information, as well as ensuring that employees understand any consequences that may be faced for misuse. However as social media and its use increases, develops and diversifies, employers must remember to re-visit the company's social media policy and update it regularly to ensure it is fit for purpose and affords protection as far as possible.

Mar 2020

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