The dos and don’ts of social media at work

20 Aug 2019 By Paul Kelly

Paul Kelly discusses what employers and employees need to be aware of around the use of Facebook, Instagram and their ilk

With a number of high-profile cases recently appearing in the media, attitudes towards social media in the workplace are at the forefront of the minds of many employers, with some taking a stricter approach to infractions. For example, Danny Baker was recently sacked by the BBC for his controversial tweet regarding the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s baby.

This is only the latest in a series of controversial tweets made by well-known people that have resulted in backlash and this is being translated into the social media policies and guidelines of many organisations.

Although difficult to monitor efficiently, there are certain things that can be done to keep the reputation of a business and its employees intact.

Don’t let the past come back to haunt you

With an increasing number of employers checking potential employees’ social media accounts before offering a job, it’s important to be aware of the tone of posts and tweets, even if they are a few years old. 

As there is currently no legislation that prohibits employers from investigating a prospective employee’s social media profile, a good CV and strong performance in the interview isn’t always enough when faced with inappropriate comments and embarrassing or explicit photos. People need to regularly look back over their social media posts to make sure they’re happy with the tone of their accounts.

Make policies clear

It’s recommended that employers and managers develop policies that set out what they see as acceptable or unacceptable behaviour on social media at work. Employees should be aware that breaking these guidelines could lead to disciplinary action.

The policy should set out what employees can and cannot say about the organisation, other employees or customers, and if there are set times that employees can use social media; for example, their lunch break. Employees shouldn’t feel as though they can’t use social media at all for fear of repercussions, but protecting against online bullying and harassment is crucial.

Protect workplace social media accounts

While policies should be in place for employees using their personal accounts, employers should be mindful of those used for work purposes. Whether it’s being used for community management or paid social posts, organisations need to make sure that employees handle accounts appropriately. 

This even extends to employees who leave the business, especially if this was on bad terms. In this situation the relevant person’s access should be deleted and all passwords should be changed to make sure they can’t hack the account and potentially affect the reputation of the business.

Create a fair disciplinary procedure

When considering a disciplinary procedure for an employee that has breached workplace social media policies, employers need to make sure that the same standards of conduct are applied as if it were an offline issue.

Businesses should consider the intent behind any posts or comments made and the impact they could have on the business’s reputation or the feelings of another employee or customer. It’s a good idea for employers to share examples of what may be considered inappropriate to make procedures as simple as possible to implement and follow.

Paul Kelly is head of employment law at Blacks Solicitors 

HR Business Partner

HR Business Partner

Tomlinscote School, Frimley, Camberley GU16 8PY

£46,368 - £54,176

The Prospect Trust

Head of HR Business Partnering & ER

Head of HR Business Partnering & ER

Home-based, Shelter office-based or a combination of the two with regular travel to London

£50,000 pa + excellent benefits including 30 days holiday and flexible working


Assistant Director - HR Delivery

Assistant Director - HR Delivery

Home-based, Shelter office-based or a combination of the two with regular travel to London

Up to £65,000 pa + excellent benefits including 30 days holiday and flexible working


View More Jobs

Explore related articles