It’s difficult to deny that thus far, the 21st Century has indeed proven to be the information age, and no more has that shift been felt, especially in the online world of social media. 

Some of the statistics in this area are mind-blogging; according to recent research by Social Pilot, 17.6% of the entire world population uses Instagram, Facebook generates 4 million likes every minute, 83% of the world’s leaders are on Twitter, and TikTok has over a billion monthly active users worldwide.

With numbers like the above, it isn’t difficult to see why businesses focus their efforts on using social media as a tool for business generation and reputation management. 

However, with the ability for a post to go viral in no time, the risk to a business with an employee posting badly thought-out content is potentially catastrophic. 

In light of this, many employers are now looking at social media policies to exercise some control over their staff in this area.

What is a social media policy?

A social media policy is an employment policy document where you lay out your company’s stance regarding social media, including your rules and guidelines and how and when social media may be used during working time.  

It’s important to detail in the social media policy the use and type of content that isn’t allowed to be published on your professional social media, which is likely to be the following:

  • Content that may defame or disparage the employer
  • Content that can bully or discriminate against staff or third parties
  • False or misleading statements
  • Commercially sensitive or confidential business topics 

The document may also list any management approvals or training required before posting on specific topics. Also, it may include a section on monitoring arrangements and sanctions for breach of the policy.

If you’re concerned about an employee sharing confidential information about your business, then it’s advisable to get them to sign an NDA or have the appropriate confidentiality clauses in their employment contract.

What are the employer benefits of having a social media policy?

Thanks to a social media policy, the employer can add clarity and certainty to an otherwise chaotic area. 

A well-drafted social media policy allows an employer to set out a framework around what is and isn’t acceptable to be posting online, which may cause an employee to take a moment to step back and think before posting something that has the potential to cause severe embarrassment or worse.

Should I not put a social media clause in our employment contract instead?

The policy shouldn’t be contractually binding, so the employer can regularly update it without needing to change all employment contracts.

Is it difficult to draft a social media policy?

It depends on the type and style of social media policy you want to develop for your business.  

However, a robust social media policy is a relatively in-depth document covering both practical and legal areas. It’s also crucial that it’s separate from any of your other policies on that topic. 

Whilst you could draft your policy, you may benefit from instructing a solicitor to do so, so that you have a professionally prepared document to protect you.

Would a breach of a social media policy lead to dismissal?

In severe cases, it could lead to dismissal. However, this is likely to be the case if the employee posted something discriminatory or unlawful or if malice or vexatious intent was behind the posting. It could also result in dismissal if the employee had repeatedly breached the terms of the policy even though the employer gave formal warnings.

A common sanction for a breach of the social media policy would be a verbal or written warning for an isolated breach.

Wrapping up

If you would like advice and support with drafting, reviewing, or updating a social media policy or advice if an employee has breached your policy, you should reach out to an employment lawyer with appropriate expertise. 

LawBite has helped many companies to draft their terms and conditions, providing expert guidance and business legal advice.