Social media - legal issues for businesses

Social media is a valuable tool for business marketing and promotion and can help your organisation to reach a wider audience quickly and efficiently.

However, new technology and methods of communication bring new risks and potential legal claims.

Tees can help guide you through the maze of legal issues to protect your business and help you make the most of your resources with safeguards and guidance. Use of social media within the workplace is now commonplace. It can be a valuable tool for marketing, social interaction or increasingly a mixture of the two.

However, what happens when the boundaries become blurred? Are you aware that use of social media can expose your company to risk of claims such as: breach of confidentiality, cyber-bullying, defamation and damage to reputation, discrimination and harassment?

Some areas to consider include:

  • Confidentiality: check your employees are clear on any confidentiality clauses in their contract Do they cover for example client contact lists on, say, Linkedin? This can be a great tool to help grow your business contacts but be careful to ensure everyone understands the rules on the use of such platforms.
  • Recruitment: be careful not to discriminate against candidates on the basis of any characteristics you discover via networking sites e.g. marital status, sex, age, sexual orientation etc. Finding out this information could also be contrary to your equal opportunities monitoring policies and procedures. Ensure your social media messages and activities reflect your commit­ment to equality of opportunity and that you are an employer of choice.
  • Company Policies and procedures: when were these last updated? Update these to cover use of social media and terms of usage. Give clear guidance as to what the company considers acceptable or not Refer to anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies as well as giving specific examples of matters which could give rise to disciplinary action. Tees Law can assist you with the policies and procedures you need or help audit your current information.
  • Communication: ensure all staff are aware of the social media policy and (poten­tially serious) consequences of any breaches. It is essential to keep staff informed if you wish to monitor usage. 
  • Data Protection and Privacy: keep these rules in mind. Breach of the Data Protection Act may bring severe penalties. Our team can provide expert advice on the lawful storage and processing of data.
  • Whistleblowing: be aware that postings on social networking sites could amount to whistleblowing. Consider putting in place a whistleblowing policy.
  • Training: train managers to deal with and monitor any breaches of social media policy. Restrictive Covenants Consider whether these are necessary to protect your business interests.
  • Cyber-bullying: ensure your policies have a clear grievance procedure in place and that managers are aware of what could constitute cyber-bullying. For example bombarding someone with emails, although the content may not be offensive, could be deemed harassment.
  • Ownership: who owns your database and do you have the right to a copyright over client's and contacts?

At Tees we can assist you in developing a tailored policy to suit your business needs and provide you with practical help on how to manage your organisa­tion's requirements and put in place adequate safeguards.

Tees is here to help

We have many specialist lawyers who are based in:

EssexBrentwoodChelmsford, and Saffron Walden
HertfordshireBishop's Stortford and Royston

But we can help you wherever you are in England and Wales.

Chat to the Author, Robert Whitaker

Executive Partner, Employment Law, Bishop's Stortford office

Meet Robert
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