Bracher Rawlins employment partner Lee Gabbie recently took part in a two-part webinar on Social Media in the Workplace hosted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAEW). Lee was joined by Yvonne Foster, managing director of Lotus HR.
In the first session, the discussion centred on the extent to which employers are able to monitor social media activity by their staff.
A poll at the start of the webinar by Simon Alsop from the ICAEW revealed that the majority of listeners did not have a social media policy in their organisations.
Lee and Yvonne spoke about the importance of having a policy in place that sets out rules and procedures for staff’s use of social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Lee discussed the virtues to organisations of implementing (and regularly updating) their social media policy. He explained that any policy should make it clear when employees’ communications on social media can be monitored by their employer.
Yvonne talked about how businesses can reduce social media abuse to an absolute minimum. This can be achieved by briefing and training managers on how to implement company rules and procedures. Yvonne also emphasised the importance of face-to-face communication when doing this.
By the end of the webinar, many listeners were persuaded that it would be a good idea to introduce such a policy not least so as to ensure that employees are treated consistently.
Lee and Yvonne gave listeners a ‘top tips’ list of things to include in their social media policy.
In the second session, the discussion focused on how businesses can prevent dissemination and/or misuse of their confidential information and trade secrets by employees via social media channels.
Lee referred to the memorably named 1987 case of Faccenda Chicken Ltd v Fowler (which almost 30 years later is still the leading authority on this topic). This case sets out what types of information must be treated as confidential.
Yvonne then went on to talk about how employers can be vicariously liable for the actions/inactions of their employees that result in allegations of bullying or harassment in the workplace. Given the social media context, cyber bullying was the focal point of this part of the discussion.
Just over one in ten listeners said that they had experienced a case of cyber bullying in the workplace. This is a fairly low figure and suggests that most of the listeners are managing to prevent potential flashpoints from escalating. It was also notable that having listened to the webinar, 47% of the audience thought it was important to train their managers.
Listeners appreciated the point that it is not only important to have policies in place but also to implement those policies consistently and fairly across the workforce through briefing and training sessions.
To download our Top 10 things to include in your social media policy, click here.
Please look out for details of future webinars in this series on a variety of employment law and HR related issues. The next one is due to be aired in early 2017.