How to manage employee use of social media
Employers can minimise the risks associated with social media by implementing and maintaining a clear and effective social media in the workplace policy. This should clearly define acceptable and unacceptable behaviour on social media, as well as consequences for any breach in the policy.
Clearly define what is and isn’t acceptable
Your social media policy should include clear guidelines on what employees are and are not permitted to do on social media. In particular, the policy should cover what is acceptable for employees when referring to your organisation, products or services, staff, clients or competitors.
In general, unacceptable behaviours on social media include comments or actions that are either:
likely to cause serious damage to the relationship between the employer and the employee
damaging to the employer’s interests
incompatible with the employees duty as an employee.
Outline a code of conduct in relation to bullying and harassment
Employees may be friends with, or follow other employees on social media. However, comments made in a public forum may form the basis of serious misconduct, even if it occurred outside work hours. Actions, such as unfriending someone on Facebook, could even be considered as bullying.
In your social media policy, it’s important to highlight bullying, discrimination and harassment is unacceptable. If any misconduct occurs on social media, your business may be at risk of legal action unless you can prove you took reasonable steps to prevent the acts from occurring.
Ensure the policy doesn’t infringe an employee’s right to privacy
A clear and effective social media policy increases protection for an organisation and its employees, without unreasonably infringing on an employees’ right to privacy.
Your social media policy should clearly state that it applies to an employee’s private use of social media. This could be on a work computer, on an employee’s private computer or device, or on a work phone. However, it’s important not to breach an employee’s privacy.
Regulating an employee’s private social media use should only apply if it has an impact on their employment or the organisation.
Outline the consequences of breaching the policy
Your social media policy should explicitly state the consequences of a breach by employees. This could include the disciplinary process and actions that may be taken, and a reminder that serious misconduct could result in termination of employment.
Ensure the social media policy is understood
It is not enough to simply have a social media policy. In order to ensure your policy is effective, employees must clearly understand it. Conduct training for employees on the contents of the social media policy, and provide everyone with access to a copy.
Your social media policy should also be a working document. This means it is regularly updated to account for any updates in social media use, or any new technologies.
Enforcing your social media policy for employees
As mentioned above, an effective social media policy allows you to discipline an employee whose conduct is in breach of the policy. It’s important to follow through with disciplinary action in order to uphold the policy’s credibility.