NW businesses ‘ignore’ social media risks

HR Team's Martina McAuley.

HR Team's Martina McAuley.

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A survey of 60 businesses in Derry and Donegal has found that 80% have no set ground rules governing social media use in the workplace.

Human resources and employment law experts HR Team carried out the desk survey of small to medium sized businesses in the North West following a recent landmark EU ruling on social media use in the workplace.

Of 60 businesses surveyed, 49 admitted to having no social media rules and regulations contained in their company handbooks and contracts of employment. Of the 11 organisations which reported having existing social media policies in place, only two had policies robust enough to offer protection in the event of an employment tribunal.

HR Team Managing Partner Martina McAuley said the figures indicated that many employers have simply ignored or overlooked the importance of having a watertight social media policy.

“Social media use has developed at such pace in the last decade that many employers now find their businesses at risk because they’ve ignored it,” she said. “Even in organisations where regular social media use is part of the job, there are a surprising number of employers who continue to ‘play it by ear’ without setting out a clear policy to govern online activity.

“This can place employers in a very difficult position when dealing with situations such as staff members posting comments harmful to the organisation or when productivity takes a nosedive due to personal social media use by employees during working hours.

“Of course, the benefits of social media use by employees can far outweigh the risks - but only when employers are fully prepared should things go wrong. Employers who allow social media use to go unchecked in the workplace by having no clearly outlined policy are asking for trouble. Employers who pay lip service to it and adopt policies which are not robust are equally at risk,” she added.

“It is vitally important that employers have a policy governing social media use which addresses all the key points and, in particular, the consequences for employees if the policy is not adhered to.”

HR Team and employment law solicitors Millar McCall Wylie will host a ‘Managing Social Media in the Workplace’ masterclass for employers and management teams in Derry’s Northern Ireland Science Park on Tuesday, March 15, from 9.30am to 12.15pm. To reserve a place, contact breda@hrteamservices.com