Information technology is clearly a business essential now and social media includes a variety of internet-based communication tools, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, that are increasingly a key part of business communications. However, there are various business and legal risks associated with the use of IT and social media in the workplace, particularly when they are used improperly or inappropriately.
As an employer, you should put in place policies concerning IT and social media to limit employees’ personal use and to protect your business from the various associated risks. If you actively encourage employees to use social media for marketing or other business purposes, you should set down clear guidelines for doing so.
Social media has provided many exciting and innovative ways for businesses to grow, and participating in social media can be a good way to expand and elevate a company’s business presence. But it has also created challenges in an employment context.
Legal liabilities can arise from the use of social media by employees, whether for business or private purposes. Also, for some employers, their lack of social media understanding means that they are not equipped to manage its use by staff and volunteers.
The first line of defence, and point of reference for any organisation, should be a social media policy that instructs and guides employees on how to use social media in a work context. The policy should set out the standards expected from employees when using social media, and gives social media guidelines for them on acceptable behaviour. It also sets out the possible consequences that might be faced by an employee who breaches the policy.
While it is clearly a business necessity that employees are able to access an organisation’s IT resources and communications systems, it should be borne in mind that improper or inappropriate use of such systems can cause significant problems for an employer. For example:
- Increased potential for unauthorised disclosure of confidential information
- Reputational damage from inappropriate emails
- Infringement of third-party intellectual property rights
- Harassment and cyber-bullying, and
- Time-wasting and loss of productivity
An IT resources and communications systems policy may help you to reduce these risks. The IT policy addresses the key issues which arise from employee use of IT resources and communications systems, and again sets out the possible consequences of breaching the policy.
The laws regulating the use of IT and social media are still developing and evolving. Our experienced Employment Law Solicitors can assist you in the drafting and implementation of bespoke IT and Social Media policies, tailored to suit your organisation and the roles being undertaken by your staff. We can also provide advice and support when dealing with misconduct issues arising from employees’ use of IT and social media, whether within the workplace or outside working hours.
In most employment situations taking legal advice early on can often stop the situation from escalating and will save you time and money later. With our proactive advice, Thorntons Employment Law team can help find the right solution for you over use of IT and social media in your workplace and other employee management issues. Give one of our team a call on 03330 430 350 , or complete our online enquiry form and we will contact you.