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Avoiding the pitfalls of social media in business

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Sarah Tahamtani, partner in the employment team at Clarion, offers advice about how can small and medium sized businesses can avoid problems from the use of social networking.

  1. All businesses, large and small, need a policy outlining acceptable usage of social media; limiting the use of these sites in the workplace; and making clear to employees the restrictions on the use of the employer’s name and business.
  2. Make sure the company’s social media policy also cross refers to other policies such as the Disciplinary, Equal Opportunity and IT policies and forms part of the induction process for new recruits. If you don’t have an HR function, make sure that a member of the management team is responsible for delivering these policies.
  3. Employees should also be prohibited from sharing sensitive corporate information on the internet such as sales figures and any other information not in the public domain.
  4. While for larger businesses social media usage is likely to already be part of the induction programme, smaller enterprises also need to ensure it is incorporated within staff training so that employees understand how issues, including potential breaches of copyright, may put the company at risk.
  5. Establish a privacy policy to ensure compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998 which extends to cover data collected via the company’s own site and via social media sites.
  6. Make clear to employees how data on social networking sites, including employee’s contacts, suppliers and clients (including LinkedIn) will be treated on termination of their employment and, in appropriate cases, implement restrictive covenants.
  7. Any blogs referring to the company should identify that the writer is an employee and that the views expressed are the writer’s alone and do not represent those of the company.
  8. Do not ignore the online conduct of your employees because it occurs outside the workplace if it impacts the business.
  9. Use disciplinary action if the behaviour of an employee is inappropriate and are made public on the internet.
  10. Treat online bullying and/or harassment in the same way as workplace bullying and in accordance with your equal opportunity policy in the case of any discriminatory acts. Employers should balance their employees’ rights to privacy and freedom of expression against the risk of damage to their business that any unwanted comments may cause.

If you have any questions, please contact our employment partner Sarah Tahamtani on 0113 336 3314.

Source: This article was published in The Yorkshire Post on Thursday 22 March 2012

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