2015 - Social Media in the Workplace

The impact of Social Media on the workplace is increasing. Social Media is the broad term for internet-based tools used on PCs, laptops, tablets and smart phones to help people make contact, keep in touch and interact. We have accepted all of these innovations, and many more, as part of our working lives, helping us to work more flexibly, stay in touch for longer and respond to each other quicker.

But is it all good news? Some estimates report that misuse of the internet and Social Media by Employees costs Britain’s economy billions of pounds every year and that many Employers are already grappling with issues like time theft, defamation, cyber bullying, freedom of speech and the invasion of privacy, meaning it’s increasingly important for Employers to ensure they use and control Social Media properly for their business.

Business Use

Social Media is a great way to widen your audience and increase website traffic. Not only will it advertise and promote your services but it will also put you in touch with other businesses that could generate leads and referrals – to increase your clientele. It’s a way of getting heard by other people (and it’s free!) Although, there are additional packages that you can buy on Social Media sites such as adverts, there is usually no cost to set up and use your account without the extras.

According to research carried out this year, LinkedIn is the most popular social media platform, with 93% of all companies enthusiastically retaining an account for corporate purposes. Second is Twitter, where 67% of Companies use an account for corporate purposes. Other popular sites include Facebook, Google Plus, Instagram and Pinterest.

Allowing an Employee to use a Company account or an account on behalf of the Company is different from allowing them to use a personal account whilst at work. Differentiating between the two is therefore vital, and is why we recommend that you include Social Media specific clauses within your Contract of Employment (and a supplementary full Policy where necessary in your Employee Handbook), to clarify the rules and requirements your Company has in this regard.

These would cover such areas as the prohibition of sending out offensive e-communications from both inside and outside of the workplace and clarification on the permitted usage (if any) of the Company email and internet systems for private use during the working day e.g. whether this is allowed during working hours, just at break times, etc. If you decide to give permission for Employees to use the internet/emails for private use (even at break times), we would recommend that you make it clear that this must not interfere with the work performance of the Employee or other Employees. We also recommend prohibiting the playing of games, use of pirate software and accessing, downloading or distributing pornography.

Whatever usage you do or don’t allow, we recommend that you monitor this, and as such, you will need to stipulate that you reserve the right to do this.

It may be that your Company has a Social Media site under its own name to which Employees have access. Alternatively, individual Employees/Managers may have separate accounts, relating and referring to the Company through posts and updates. Either way, these will be the property of the Company and will remain so should the Employee leave the Company. As such, we would recommend a clause that clarifies the position in this regard, so that any connections generated from these remain the property of the Company and any followers from such accounts cannot be exported to new accounts.

Private Use

We also recommend including clauses in your Contract, regarding your Employees’ use of Social Media in their own private time as this could still have an impact on you as their Employer. Examples of recommended areas to cover in this regard include requiring them: to not act in any way that is detrimental to the Company, its brand, customers, competitors etc; to take care to ensure their interaction on such websites doesn’t damage working relationships between colleagues and customers; and to not store any confidential information regarding the Company on the website.

Another clause we recommend that has Employer opinion divided, is asking Employees to refrain from identifying themselves as working for the Company. Our basis to recommending this is to prevent potential personal colleague verbal attacks, the airing of work related grievances, etc. being posted which could potentially have a negative impact on the Company’s image and reputation. However, some Employers encourage their Employees to identify themselves as Employees of the Company to boost business networking opportunities, for example on Linkedin. As such, it is really up to each individual Employer to consider the pros and cons of using this particular clause.


  • Develop a Policy: Employers should include what is and what is not acceptable for general behaviour in the use at work of the internet, emails, smart phones and Social Media, such as networking websites, blogs and tweets. Make sure it’s flexible enough to reflect the speed of change in this area, but robust enough to support any necessary disciplinary action.
  • Update other Policies to reflect your Social Media Policy: For example, an Employer’s Policy on bullying may need to include references to ‘cyber bullying’.
  • Ensure you have rules for recruitment: While a rigid Policy on using Social Media in recruitment could soon become obsolete, because the trend is changing and developing so quickly, it is still advisable for an Employer to have at least some rules, or procedures, which managers and Employees should follow.
  • Talk to your Employees: Employers should inform and consult with their Employees if planning to monitor Social Media activity affecting the workplace.
  • Be sensitive: Employers should promote a work-life balance – the line between work and home is becoming increasingly blurred by the use of modern technology, and Employers have an important role to play in helping guard against this.

If you would like to include or update a Social Media Policy in your Handbook and/or specific clauses in your Contracts of Employment, please contact us on 01582 883299.

Sian Freeman – Administration Apprentice
Su Allen HR