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Do You Need A Social Media Policy?

Social media websites or apps are programs that allow people to interact socially by sharing videos, text or images. 

The use of social media is fast-expanding in the workplace, and it is a high risk area for defamation and discrimination claims because of its instant nature and the speed with which the content can be shared far and wide.  Employers may be held vicariously liable for defamatory or discriminatory statements made by employees if they are acting in the course of their employment. While an employer may legitimately restrict an employee's freedom of expression in a work-related context, whether that restriction can extend to personal, out of work, activities will depend on the circumstances of each case.

It is best practice for all organisations to have in place a social media policy because the reality is that even if the employer’s business is not active on social media, a good proportion of its employees will be actively engaging on social media.

The precise contents of the policy should be tailored to meet the needs of the organisation and should tie in with other workplace policies relating to matters such as internet use harassment, equalities and data protection.  The policy should be balanced between the employee’s rights to privacy and freedom of expression and the employer’s competing interests, for example to protect its reputation.

The policy should explain that the organisation may suffer reputational damage as a result of disparaging comments made online by its staff, and set out guidelines for social media use, including what is and what is not acceptable behaviour at work when using the internet, emails, smartphones and social networking websites. If private use is allowed at work or on work devices, the policy should be clear about what that means, and any limits to usage and what may be posted.

Staff should be reminded to create separate personal and work-related social media accounts, and it can be helpful to remind employees that it is possible to set the privacy settings on their social media accounts to restrict who can read the comments that they make.  Employees should be asked not to represent their personal views as being those of the organisation, for example by requiring a disclaimer on any personal blogs that they operate. 

The policy should make sure that employees do not feel gagged, feel protected against online bullying and that the organisation itself feels confident that its reputation will be guarded. 

The policy should set out the consequences of making a derogatory statement or breaching the policy, that disciplinary action will be taken and that this could result in dismissal.

The existence of the social media policy together with training should assist if an employer does have to take action against an employee for misconduct relating to their social media use.  Ultimately in the event of a breach, it will be helpful to be able to show that there was a clear policy that the employee was aware of and that this has been breached.

To speak to a member of our Employment team, please contact 01689 887840 or email


Although correct at the time of publication, the contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. Please contact us for the latest legal position.