The use of social media platforms by employees in the workplace has become a growing concern for employers and business owners. Social media can be a great advantage to businesses when it comes to advertising, customer retention, brand image and competitive strategies. However, if its’ use is not correctly policed in the workplace, the risks can severely affect the businesses image, reputation and goodwill.
The employment relationship is based on trust, and when that trust is broken through defamation, hate speech or a breach of the employment contract, it can amount to a fair and lawful dismissal.
It is therefore trite that a business should be proactive and have an effective and coherent Social Media Policy in place in order to prevent social media liabilities.
The benefits of having a Social Media Policy in place lowers costly legal expenses and mitigates the companies liability against the employee. The Social Media Policy should be implemented together with training, monitoring and updating.
Managers should take a responsible and transparent approach to adopting a Social Media Policy, and consider the following :
- Are employees educated about the social media related laws such as the Consumer Protection Act, Labour Relations Act, Code of Good Practice, Electronic Communications Act, The Constitution and Copyright and Trademark Act?
- Does the company have a social media strategy?
- What social media platforms are accessible in the workplace?
- What is considered as ethical, respectful and confidential information?
- Does the company have legal monitoring rules in place?
- What disciplinary measures would be appropriate to the nature of the publication?
- Does the company have safe avenues for employees to air their concerns and grievances?
- Should the company have a designated spokesperson?
- What would be considered as fair use?
As a business owner or employer, the effects of social media misuse on the companies good will can have far reaching effects after the fact, and sometimes the company can even be held vicariously liable. A dismissal may be lawful and fair, but it is not always the appropriate response.
When it comes to social media, your best weapon is to be proactive, and not reactive. Get a Social Media Policy in place today!
Written by Erika Potgieter