BUSINESS SHOW: Social media and employment law

Social media and employment law Emmajane Taylor-Moran and Jane Johnson from Gelbergs LLP explained how to manage your business’ reputation on social media at the Business Show at London’s Excel…

Employees are individuals with ideas and opinions, which can be your greatest asset. It can also be a liability. Gen Y or millennials are always online – this generation finds technology instinctive, and are connected 24/7. They generally prefer to communicate online rather than face-to-face. As a result, what was once work life balance is now work life integration.

If it’s on the internet, it isn’t private.

People tend to hide behind the perceived anonymity that is offered by online platforms, and sometimes people post stupid things without considering the impact on themselves or on their company. This can include confidential information shared online such as sales figures etc. or product launches. Employees can even post racially insensitive comments that can be damaging to a company’s reputation.

Horror stories

There are cases of Christian employees posting their views on gay marriage on Facebook, and another case involves a bus driver posting SnapChat photos while driving that then went viral. However, people are entitled to share their opinions on Facebook, even if they are controversial, but employers must remember that there is a clear difference between this and sending emails directed at colleagues. Businesses must ensure they are informed about how to handle disciplinary procedures.

What can be done?

Some large businesses insist on rigorous standard processes to be put in place to ensure that no employees are tweeting on behalf of the company without training. This can be alienating, so how can you toe the line? Really, it comes down to common sense. Make best practice more about ‘do’s’ than ‘don’ts’ but let employees know that social media will be monitored. Educate staff about confidentiality and make them aware that standards of the company affect them on a personal level.

Have a written policy that protects the company against liability and helps employees draw the line for themselves and sets standards for good housekeeping. Be clear about sensitive issues. It should include information about network security, smartphones and devices, and social network sites. Remind people about their personal social sites – most people would re-write their profiles if they thought their employers would be reading it.