Financial & Legal News

Social media issues for employees

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This week, we look at social media usage from the point of view of an employee.

(If you are an employer, click here to read our article on ‘social media pitfalls for employers’).

As an employee of any business, your behaviour in and out of work reflects on your employer. This is particularly true of your online behaviour.  Whenever you comment on your work or workplace, your colleagues or bosses, your clients or suppliers or your employer’s goods or services, you can affect the reputation of your employer, their brand and their business.

All your posts are potentially public: even those made privately to your group of friends can soon become public if one of them shares your post. A single post can destroy your career if not your employer’s business.

High profile cases of disgruntled employees or celebrities posting libellous material online tend to grab the headlines. In reality, however, most social media gaffes are the result of careless or ill-judged comments posted without thought to their potential reach or effect. As a responsible employee, you have a duty to your employer to be – or become – a sensible and informed social media user both at home and work.

Here are our tips on how to ensure your social media use is appropriate:

  • Does your employer have a social media policy? Are there any guidelines for your role? If yes, read and comply with them.
  • If there is no social media policy or you do not understand or agree with the guidance, speak to your employer. It is in both your and your employer’s interests to ensure such policies exist and are understood and complied with.
  • If you do not understand the social media policy, ask for training.
  • Be aware that breach of your employer’s social media policy can lead to disciplinary proceedings and potentially the termination of your job.
  • Be just as careful in your private use of social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook or Instagram as you are in any work usage. Your posts are public and potentially far reaching. Do you really want to risk a careless comment going viral?
  • Everything you post online could potentially be public. This includes, emails and Facebook posts. It only takes one person to forward on your email or someone to like your Facebook post and strangers will be able to read and publish your comments.
  • Avoid making any comments online that could discredit or embarrass your employer. Negative comments about your job could damage the business in which you work. If you criticise your employer’s business, clients, suppliers, products or services, you could damage the employer’s reputation. Such damage could have a knock on effect on both your and your colleagues’ jobs.
  • If you have gripes about work, raise them with your manager and try and resolve the issue.  Complaining or criticising your employer on line, can damage your own reputation and potentially lose you your job. This happened to one employee in a recent case (The British Waterways Board v Smith) where his negative posts about his job on Facebook led to him being sacked – despite two years having elapsed since the comments were made.

Don’t forget to raise any ideas for improving the use of social media with your employer: used well, social media is an excellent tool for promoting business.

For more information, contact on 0161 785 3500

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.

Written by Susan Mayall


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