New ACAS Guidance on Social Media

A new study has found that more and more employers are blocking staff access to social media sites as security fears overshadow the potential business benefits of these media tools.  The conciliation service also claims that the use of these sites are costing the UK economy up to £14 billion per year.

However because many businesses use social networking sites for marketing and business purposes the policies should not be too strict in order to allow their employees to use these sites in a way that would be beneficial to the employer.
Due to the growing concern on the 1st September 2011 ACAS launched guidance on its website to assist UK employers and employees get to grips with cyber issues which are estimated to cost businesses millions of pounds every year.

ACAS’s main recommendation is that employers should consult their staff and trade unions on policies relating to the use of the internet and social media websites.

Claire McCartney, resourcing and talent planning adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said "We believe that employers need to take a common-sense approach to the do's and don'ts of social media and recognise the benefits that it can bring - such as increasing work contacts, sharing knowledge, contributing to employer brand and helping with recruitment campaigns."

Although many employers will already have a general email and internet use policy, the guidance encourages specific provisions in respect of social networking issues. However, it does note that existing email and internet use policies can be expanded upon and adapted to deal with the particular issues raised by social networking.

The ACAS guidance also advises that all social networking provisions should draw a clear distinction between business and private use of social media and, if only limited private use is allowed, then it should be made clear what use is allowed.

The guidance offers a practical factsheets in respect of what it sees as the five main areas to which this issue relates, which is: Managing Performance, Recruitment, Discipline and Grievance, Bullying and Defamation, Data Protection and Privacy.
For many employers where the use of computers is a fundamental component of the business this is an area which has become increasingly important.  ‘A failure to have effective policies surrounding social networking will leave employees unclear as to what sort of use is permissible and may lead to claims for unfair dismissal, in the event that perceived misuse of networking sites is founded upon’.  It is therefore important that employers make sure that their policies are clear. 

Taken from Just Employment Law Limited and Claire Churchard from Peoples Management. (two sources)

The guidance can be viewed here