Social media is an important part of how businesses operate. Not only is it normal practice for companies to engage social media platforms as part of marketing and promotional strategies, but social media also plays a huge part in employee’s personal lives. Which is why it’s necessary for all businesses to have some form of social media policy, in order to cover off the expectations for employees using social media at work and at home.

A comprehensive social media policy should provide clear and strict guidelines surrounding:

  • Bullying, harassment and sexual harassment;
  • Disclosing confidential information;
  • Writing derogatory comments about the business, its employees or customers; and
  • Writing or publishing offensive material, which brings the business into disrepute.

The policy should ensure workers are aware of the high standards of conduct and behaviour expected when engaging in social media, and that any online participation reflects and upholds the values, integrity and reputation of the business at all times.

When social media is misused, there can be ramifications for those involved and in the context of online misconduct within the workplace, this can result in severe consequences for both the employer and employee. Sexual harassment, bullying, violations of privacy, and confidentiality breaches are all examples of online misconduct, all of which are unlawful and can cause huge reputational damage to a business.

How do I ensure employees follow social media guidelines?

Training, training, training! Having a comprehensive social media policy is one thing, but ensuring workers follow it is another. Employers should look to provide as much education regarding appropriate social media use to workers as possible, and provide regular refresher training to establish a solid understanding amongst the workforce.

Employees should know that engaging in sexual or racial harassment or vilification or any form of unlawful discrimination is not only inappropriate, but unlawful and will be followed up promptly with appropriate disciplinary action. A simple rule of thumb is any behaviour that would be considered inappropriate in the physical working environment should be considered inappropriate in online forums and on social media, both at home and work.

Case Study

A recent case in the UK involved an employee being a victim of harassment after discovering a group chat dedicated to racially abusing her. On reporting the matter to senior management, the employee was advised that the situation was nothing more than a ‘he said, she said’ situation.

The result was that the employment tribunal determined that the employer handled the situation ‘inadequately’ and the employee was subsequently awarded almost $50,000 in respect of injury to feelings and financial losses.

Although the matter occurred in England the lessons are the same. This case confirms the importance not simply having appropriate social media policy in place, but of all employees receiving thorough training on issues of equality, diversity and inclusion not only to deter employees from acting inappropriately, but also to outline the appropriate course of action for management in dealing with such issues, should they arise.

If you need help developing and implementing an effective social media policy in your workplace, get in touch with our highly skilled team of HR professionals.

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