In the age of social media, an employee’s conduct outside of working hours is increasingly important when it comes to an organisation’s reputation. A throw-away comment on a personal Twitter account can quickly escalate and affect your company's reputation before you have a chance to intervene.
Even if the faux pas doesn’t make the news, it could still have a knock on effect on business. The offending tweet could be picked up by search engines or found by consumers when researching your products or services.
Developing a social media policy will allow you to communicate to employees what is expected of their on-line behaviour. If you want to protect yourself from any accidental social media disasters, include one or all of the following 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 of a senior member of your company and their job title];
- 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.
You must also outline that your company reserves the right to monitor employees’ use of its facilities to access social networking websites. Details of this should be set out in an 'IT, Communication and Monitoring Policy'.
Employers should suggest that if an employee discloses their affiliation to the company in social media they should also add 'the views on this profile do not represent the views of my employer' to their social media profiles, in an attempt to protect the company from any negative effect of the employees’ on-line behaviour.
These policies will help employees understand that they play an important role in the reputation of their employer. Prevention, after all, is far better than cure.
Edward Jones is an employment lawyer with Riverview Solicitors