There are wide-ranging implications for your business from employees' use of such media - and steps you can and should take to safeguard your business. The starting point is to communicate to employees and other staff the organisation's clear and comprehensive policy on use of social media forums. This should outline the following:
· Reputation and image: set out clearly whether and to what extent you allow employees to comment on their working life in cyberspace. A customer-focused business will reasonably prohibit any derogatory comments about customers. A manufacturing or retail organisation will want to avoid any and all 'Ratner jewellery'-like comments.
· Confidential information: your staff need to know what information is confidential – this is good practice not only in relation to social media forums. Make sure you update guidance on confidentiality regularly since, once information is in the public domain, you may not be in a position to claim confidentiality again.
· Contact lists: make clear who owns contacts lists, wherever they may be stored.
· Discrimination, harassment and bullying: you can be held vicariously liable for comments your employees make online. And, as you know, compensation for unlawful discrimination is unlimited. Make sure your equal opportunity training covers social media forums and put in place effective safeguards to reduce the risk of such claims.
· Employees' privacy and data protection: you need to strike a balance between monitoring employees' use of social networking and respecting their right to privacy. Whether you use information from a social network to make recruitment decisions, monitor employees' conduct or terminate the employment, you must comply with UK laws on data protection and privacy.