ACAS has recently published a research paper it commissioned on the subject of Workplaces and Social Networking: The Implications for Employee Relations. This is a useful publication for employers dealing with social media and/or general internet usage issues affecting their workforce.
Key contents of the paper
The paper examines the growth in recent years of social media use in and relating to the workplace, and looks at some of the associated issues that this can pose for employers, such as the need to balance disciplinary considerations with employee data privacy and human rights concerns. It includes two in-depth case studies detailing how two employers (BT and HMRC) have responded to the issue, and also contains a framework of questions that employers should ask themselves when setting up their own social media/internet usage policy.
The paper sets out a number of recommendations for employers when dealing with social media issues in the workplace, including the following:
All employers should have a clear policy on social media/internet usage. This should set out the organisation’s expectations of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and the consequences of violation.
Social media/internet usage policies should be drawn up in consultation with staff, and clearly communicated to them.
Employers should ensure that they operate adequate mechanisms for employees to raise formal and informal grievances internally, without resorting to social media.
Relevant policies should be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure their effectiveness and relevance in a fast-changing context.
Not all of these suggestions will suit all employers, but some of the commentary is interesting.
What does this mean for employers?
The paper is not law, nor is it a formal ACAS policy with the same standing as the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures. Employers are therefore under no obligation to comply with it.
However, workplace-related social media usage is increasingly an issue for employers, and the paper contains some interesting points to note.
The key recommendation made in the paper is that employers dealing with these sorts of issues have in place a social media usage policy.
We discussed this issue as part of our June 2011 Employment Seminar, and would be happy to provide further guidance (and materials from this Seminar) upon request.
The paper can be found at: