The use of social media is now common place in the world of work, but are employers protecting themselves by ensuring the relevant policies and procedures are in place?

While the use of social media can have many positive effects for a business, it also presents new problems, with the potential to magnify existing risks to a much larger audience.

Employee use of social media, inside and outside the workplace, can expose employers to potentially damaging legal liabilities.

It is estimated that misuse of the internet and social media costs the British economy billions of pounds each year, with businesses forced to fight issues of confidentiality, cyber-bullying, defamation and freedom of speech in well-publicised court battles together with the significant number of hours of productivity lost by employees using social media during the working day and the costs associated with this.

Therefore it is vital that businesses develop policies for the use of social media.

To help businesses protect themselves from the threat of social media London and Surrey-based lawyers Mackrell Turner Garrett have launched an online guide to producing workplace policies.

Donna Martin, employment solicitor and social media specialist at the firm, says: “By having clear guidelines in place staff will know what they are permitted to say about their colleagues, the business and its clients, in both a personal capacity and on behalf of their employer.

“In addition, a social media policy ought to be designed to provide clarity regarding the personal views employees can express, what is considered defamation and how staff are expected to protect the reputation of the company.

“Having a policy in place also helps to manage performance effectively, outlines any monitoring of social media that the company carries out and explains how breaches will be dealt with.

“All of this ought to help businesses manage the problems which arise from the actions of employees.”

Donna says that any social media policy should firstly differentiate between personal use and those who use social media on behalf of the organisation, while at the same time clarifying what constitutes acceptable behaviour.

“It is advisable for any policy to concentrate on employee’s personal use of social media whilst referring to guidelines for the corporate use of social media which can be contained in a separate document,” she said.

“Communication with employees is vital and they should be advised where usage is being monitored and what action will be taken should staff breach any procedures set out in the policy.

“On a positive note, there are benefits from integrating social media tools into your business strategy, so the policy should also contain details on how this can be used to boost your brand and reputation.”

To find out more about implementing a social media policy, businesses can download the guide from www.mackrell.com

The guide is not intended to be an exhaustive statement of the law and gives general information only, it should not be relied upon as legal advice.

For tailored advice about drafting of social media policies, or any other employment law matter, contact Donna Martin on 00 44 (0) 20 7240 0521 or email donna.martin@mackrell.com.