The recent case of a human resources executive, who claims he was forced from his job over his LinkedIn profile, has highlighted the need for businesses to ensure they have a clear Social Media Policy.
As well as loading his CV onto business networking site LinkedIn, he also ticked the box to register an interest in career opportunities, which his employer said was in breach of their new company policy on conflicts of interest. The employer was also unhappy as they felt that he had put confidential company information in his CV.
Robert Tice, Partner and Head of Employment at Flint Bishop, says:
“Employers need to become more aware of the risks posed by social media to their business. Not only can staff comments on social media sites damage a company’s reputation and client relations, they can also infringe third party intellectual property rights and expose confidential company information. They might also contravene legal obligations and expose employers to legal action”.
“If employers do not have a social media policy in place or that policy has not been properly communicated to your staff, the grounds for dismissal can be far less clear”.
So what key points should a business address when putting together a social media policy?
- Make it clear that the policy refers to all forms of social media, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Wikipedia and blogs
- Explain that the policy applies to use of social media for both business and personal purposes, during office hours or otherwise, whether using work IT or their own
- Ensure staff know that breach of the policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal
- Tell staff they will be expected to remove internet postings which are deemed to constitute a breach of the policy
- Clarify that social media should never be used in a way that breaches any other policies or obligations such as confidentiality, the rules of regulatory bodies, anti-harassment and data protection
- Staff should be told not to provide references for other individuals on social or professional networking sites, as these can create legal liability for the employee and the firm
- If staff use social media, explain that they must make it clear that their views do not represent those of their employer. Their views should also reflect their professional image
- Tell staff to avoid making comments about sensitive business-related topics such as business performance or problem clients
- Explain that they must not do anything to risk the firm’s trade secrets, confidential information and intellectual property
- Make it clear that they must not post anything offensive, including discriminatory comments, insults or obscenity. Nor should they post disparaging or defamatory statements
Just as the risks of social media are ongoing, so the operation of your policy needs to be monitored on an ongoing basis. Make sure you appoint someone in your firm with overall responsibility for the effective operation of the policy, as well as someone to monitor social media usage to minimise risks.
If you would like help putting together a comprehensive Social Media Policy contact Robert Tice for a free confidential chat on 01332 226 149.