Gone are the days when what an employee did outside of working hours went relatively under the radar. These days, with social media so easy to access, an employee’s conduct both in and out of work is increasingly important to an organisation’s reputation.
Ensure your employees are great representatives
You may remember media coverage surrounding Kent’s Youth Police and Crime Commissioner, Paris Brown, and how throw-away comments (or so she thought) on her personal twitter account, quickly escalated, ruining her credibility and threatening the reputation of her employer.
It’s an extreme example, but even if the online behaviour of your employees doesn’t make the news, it could still affect your customers’ opinion of you.
First off, employees need to fully understand what’s expected of them. A strong and well communicated social media policy, which forms part of your employee guidelines or handbook, will give employees a chance to consider the potential consequences, before posting anything about work online. Of course, many will adopt a common sense approach. But, having a policy in place will limit any misunderstandings.
Clearing up your policy
You may choose to include one or all of these points in your policy:
Employees must not:
- Identify themselves as working for [insert your company name] or use the Company’s logo, unless authorised to do so by [insert the name and job title of a senior member of staff];
- Express personal views about the Company, its employees, its clients or any other individual or organisation that could be seen as offensive or defamatory;
- Comment on the Company’s position on any issue (including but not limited to its strategies, policies, plans, processes, history, appointments, finances, acquisitions, recruitment, pay and benefits);
- Disclose confidential information. Employees are required to comply with the Company’s Data Protection Policy in relation to confidential information, which may include but is not limited to personal information about individuals, client details, financial and commercially sensitive information about the Company or its clients and future business plans. Confidential information can include photos and videos;
- Breach copyright, for example by using intellectual property (text or images) belonging to another person or organisation without their consent or and/or without acknowledgement;
- Post any text or image in relation to any other individual that could be perceived as discrimination, bullying, harassment or victimisation. Employees are required to comply with the Company’s Equal Opportunities Policy in relation to all postings on social media websites.
- Take all necessary steps to avoid identity theft, for example by not revealing their address, bank details or passport number;
- Alert their line manager if they become aware of any breach of this policy.
What else can you do?
Employees should be aware that your company reserves the right to monitor their use of its facilities to access social networking websites. Details of this should be set out in an IT, Communication and Monitoring Policy be and made available to all employees at all times.
It’s also good practice to suggest that if an employee discloses their affiliation to your company in social media, they should add “the views on this profile do not represent the views of my employer”, or similar, to their social media profiles. This can help protect the company from any negative effect of employees’ on-line behaviour.
Social media is here to stay, but as it becomes increasingly integrated into our daily lives, employers and employees will need to work together to ensure guidelines are in place and understood at all levels. It’s unlikely that, as an employer, you’ll have to deal with an employee’s negative use of social media. But a clear policy means you’re more likely to be safe, than sorry.
Edward Jones is an Employment Lawyer with Riverview Law. Further information about this and other topics can be found by registering for free on the Riverview Law website: www.riverviewlaw.com
You can follow them on Twitter @RiverviewLawSME