An astute employer will constantly keep their employment documentation under review to ensure that it is kept up to date with the changing landscape of working practices and with society as a whole. Each organisation is fundamentally different in their values and the pressures placed upon it and employers should keep themselves abreast of internal and external influences which may affect them.
It is hard to remember a time when a photo was taken and it wasn’t followed by someone saying ‘Put that on Facebook” or a television programme asking people to send a tweet about their content that day. Social networking is inherently entwined into daily life and people don’t think twice about using it to announce their thoughts and experiences to the world. It is not then surprising that Facebook and Twitter updates can include work related information.
Although it is possible for users to set privacy restrictions on Facebook and Twitter accounts to control who is able to see updates, privacy is not a standard setting and not everyone will spend the time setting the parameters which control which parts of their page are private and which are not. This means that, theoretically, there are no bars on who can see what.
Setting rules on how and when employees may refer to work in their updates is advisable for an employer who wants to protect his reputation and avoid potential tribunal claims. Some employers place a blanket ban on staff mentioning work at all; some allow it but take measures to be able to clearly draw the line between what is seen as the opinion of the organisation, and of the individual.
Without this line, it might be easy for someone to think that an individual is talking on behalf of an organisation which may cause a problem if the comments are at all controversial.
Protecting company secrets is another reason for stringent rules on social networking. You don’t want to be left in the situation where a member of staff has, even inadvertently, indicated a new development within your organisation that is not ready for public consumption.
It is also possible that you could be held liable for comments made by your staff towards another member of staff that are seen to be bullying or harassment. The vicarious liability provision included within discrimination legislation means that if an employer does not take measures to prevent harassment, then he can be taken to tribunal for discrimination even though he himself knew nothing about what was happening.
For further clarification and assistance then please contact the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.