Kate Brooks
Partner, Solicitor & Head of Employment/HR Services
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Date Published:10 Mar 2016 Last Updated:28 Jul 2021

Social media – both an asset and a nightmare for employers

Employment Law Advice

Social media sites are becoming increasingly popular for both individuals and businesses. Individuals utilise the sites to communicate with one and other as well as to share and gain access to information. Equally, businesses are able to utilise the sites to communicate with their clients, prospective employees and to advertise their services. The question is – is social media an asset or a problem for employers?

Some of the risks/problems:

Recruitment process:

An increasing number of companies check social networking sites for information on potential candidates. This is a very useful tool, as it enables employers to learn more about the individual, nevertheless, it should be used with caution. Employers need to ensure that they are not discriminating against individuals based on information they find on social media. In order to prevent this, employers should have an up to date Equal Opportunities Policy in force and ensure that all staff receive the necessary training to follow the policy.

Data Protection:

Employers could potentially be found guilty of unlawful processing of data if they store or copy an employee’s personal information from a social media site without their consent. In order to prevent this employers should have an up to date Data Protection Policy in force and ensure that any data is processed in accordance with this policy.

Concerns regarding productivity:

Individuals are reported as spending as much as 3 hours per day on social media sites. In order to keep on top of this and prevent employees from wasting time at work employers should have an up to date Social Media Policy and ensure that any problems that arise are addressed following their Disciplinary Procedure.

Breaches of confidentiality / damage to company’s reputation:

Employers should ensure that employment contract contains sufficient confidentiality clauses, together with an up to date social media policy.

Business contacts:

There is a concern that employees may connect with clients via social media sites and, after their employment has terminated, try to poach clients from their employers. Employers can safe guard against this by ensuring they have both confidentiality and restrictive covenant clauses in their employment contracts and staff handbooks.

and the benefits:

Advertising:

Social media provides several platforms to businesses to advertise and define their brand.

Communication:

Businesses are able to communicate with their clients directly on a personal level.

Data collection and analysis. Businesses are able to review what articles their clients were interested in and assess what works for them.

Conclusion

Social media is an invaluable tool to employers in today’s society. Employers today are under pressure to ensure they are communicating directly with their clients through several mediums, including social media. The key for employers is to ensure that they are utilising social media with the necessary protections in place.

If you are an employer and would like any advice on updating your current handbook, including your social media policy, or updating your current employment contracts to include restrictive covenants and confidentiality clause, please contact Kate Brooks at kate.brooks@ellisjones.co.uk.