Social Media – How can employers safeguard against the risks?

Our attendance at a CIPD employment law event this week confirmed that the use of social media by employees continues to be a hot topic of concern for employers, HR professionals and employment lawyers alike.

The use of social media now forms a huge part of day to day life both in and out of the workplace.  Whilst the advantages of such engagement with online networks are widely acknowledged, the risks of social media abuse can be extremely costly and must be mitigated.

Beyond the obvious theft of time spent on networking sites, “cyber bullying”, loss of reputation, defamation, as well as invasion of privacy and freedom of speech are all issues for employers to consider.  Whilst policies may be in place to address such issues in a ‘non-virtual’ setting, failure to ensure that a specific code of conduct applies to the use of social media could result in employers facing vicarious liability.

Moreover, employers should consider the extent to which any confidentiality clauses and restrictive covenants may be affected.  Are social networking contacts considered confidential?  Would contact with certain social networking contacts post-employment amount to solicitation?

It would seem inevitable that as social media continues to evolve, so too will the problems associated with its use.  The development and implementation of a social media policy is therefore much more than a ‘nice to have’.

Agile HR Consulting can assist in the review and development of HR policies and procedures.

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