Guide

Use social media safely

Social media and the employment relationship

The use of social media at work presents new opportunities to businesses but also new responsibilities regarding employees using the various sites.

Social media impacts many aspects of the relationship between employers and employees including the recruitment process, discipline and grievance, inappropriate conduct, bullying and harassment and breach of confidentiality.

To find out more about the impact of social media on each of these aspects, you can read Labour Relations Agency guidance on social media and the employment relationship.

Develop a social media policy

Having a written social media policy for your business provides clear guidelines for employees on what they can and cannot say about the company. It also helps to protect you against liability for the actions of your employees and helps them differentiate between their private and professional lives.

For more information on developing a policy, see managing social media in the workplace.

Monitoring social media

The Employment Practices Code (PDF, 225KB), which is produced by the Information Commissioner, states that it is usually intrusive to monitor your employees.

If you wish to monitor your staff, you should be clear about the purpose and satisfied that it is justified by real benefits. The employee should be aware of the nature, extent and reasons for any monitoring, unless (exceptionally) covert monitoring is justified. However, covert monitoring of employees can rarely be justified.

Network security

There are ways to help to control the usage of social media sites through your IT security and if needed, restrict or block access to certain sites. 

These include using firewalls, web security tools and ensuring you have antivirus software to detect and prevent viruses. See protect your business online

Dealing with improper use through disciplinary action

You should treat improper use of social media as you would any other type of alleged misconduct. This would involve an investigation and consideration of suspension or other precautionary action followed by disciplinary action if appropriate.

Read more about disciplinary procedures, hearings and appeals.

Key legislation

As a business owner, you should be aware of the broad range of legislation which has an impact on social media in the workplace.

This legislation includes:

  • The Data Protection Act 2018 – the Act requires anyone who handles personal information to comply with a number of important principles.
  • The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) – this forms part of the data protection regime, together with the new Data Protection Act 2018. It introduces new rules on the processing and safeguarding of personal data. 
  • Malicious Communications Act 1988 – makes provision for the punishment of persons who send or deliver letters or other articles for the purpose of causing distress or anxiety.
  • Communications Act 2003 – this Act makes it a criminal offence to send or cause to send ‘...by means of a public communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or indecent, obscene or menacing character.’

Further advice

The Labour Relations Agency (LRA) runs a series of good practice seminars covering many aspects of employment relations matters including:

  • Social media and the employment relationship
  • Handling discipline and grievance
  • Conducting employment investigations

For more detailed information, see managing employee use of social media