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Social Media and the Potential Impact on Businesses

Social media is playing an increasing part in our daily lives with the growing popularity of Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites for both personal and business use. Employers should be aware of social media and its potential impact on their business.

Following research commissioned by ACAS, they advise employers to (i) draw up a policy on social networking (ii) treat 'electronic behaviour' in the same way you would treat 'non-electronic behaviour' and (iii) react reasonably to issues around social networking by asking 'what is the likely impact on the organisation?'

One of the main concerns for employers will be lost productivity because employees are spending too much time on social networking sites whilst they should be working. A social media policy should inform employees of when it is acceptable to be using social networking sites at work (if at all) and will make employees aware of the potential consequences if that policy is breached. As with any misconduct issue, it is important that employees are dealt with as consistently as possible taking into account the particular circumstances of the individual.

Another concern for employers will be how to manage situations when employees use social media to express views about other employees or about the employer. If those comments are derogatory or inappropriate, such behaviour is likely to constitute misconduct and will need to be dealt with in accordance with the employer’s disciplinary procedure. We would recommend that the social media policy and, potentially, also the disciplinary procedure be amended to include clear examples of what will be regarded as gross misconduct.

As social media is always changing, it is important for policies to be reviewed from time to time, to keep them up to date. The ACAS guidance can be found at:
http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=3375.

Employers who would like further advice regarding social media and employment issues should contact me, Jenny Gibson on 01952 211025 or email jenny.gibson@lblaw.co.uk.