Putting in place a social media policy

Quote Social media can offer huge benefits to salons. But it is important to ensure staff know what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to posting, whether at work or at home. Basil Long, a senior legal consultant at Croner reports.

Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are becoming more and more popular, with many salons nowadays using them to offer discounts and promotions and generate dialogue with clients.

Yet alongside the many benefits of social media there are potential pitfalls, which  employers must be alert to.

One of the most common is when a disgruntled employee leaves negative comments about their employer, colleagues or general work issues either on an official salon site or on their ownpersonal sites.

This can cause two problems. Firstly, it can leave employers feeling the reputation of their business has been damaged and secondly it can cause friction between employees, especially if one employee feels bullied or harassed as a result.

In order to be prepared for these challenges, employers are well advised to consider introducing a specific social media policy. The NHF’s standard contracts have now been revised to include an element on social media, so that should be a first port of call for any Federation member. But there are a number of key issues to consider.

Clear standards

A social media policy should detail clear standards of acceptable online behaviour both inside and outside the workplace.

In the majority of cases, posts will be left by employees outside work time and will only be viewable by a select group of friends. In such circumstances employers must ensure employees are aware of what is expected of them in respect of posts on both salon and personal sites.

The parameters of what is and what is not acceptable in terms of personal internet use within the workplace should also be clearly defined in the policy. For example, it might outline when social networking is allowed, perhaps during lunch or rest breaks outside of normal working hours, and whether company equipment may be used for these purposes.

Some salons choose to restrict social media use to non-client areas, such as the staffroom.

If permitted during working time or on salon equipment, it can be a good idea to set a maximum time limit. You may, too, want to consider whether to impose a restriction on sites that can be visited during working hours.

A social media policy should also set out the potential consequences of any breach, and the likelihood of disciplinary action; up to and including dismissal. In order  adequately to rely on your policy for disciplinary purposes,it is imperative to clearly state that inappropriate posting includes messages or comments made outside work time and on personal sites, and which may have an impact on the employee’s ability to perform their role, or posts that may damage the employer’s reputation or cause embarrassment.

Disciplinary action

However, employers must be mindful that the nature of social networking can make it difficult and even risky to take disciplinary action against an employee, as the conduct may well have happened outside of the course of their employment, and arguably there has been no detrimental effect on the employer’s business.

In 2011, for example, an employment tribunal found an employee of a large car manufacturing company who was summarily dismissed for making negative comments about the employer on a social networking site was unfairly dismissed on the basis the post had not specifically referred to the employer, nor was there any evidence the employer had suffered any embarrassment or was there any likelihood of any harm to the company.

Employers will therefore need to show they have acted fairly and reasonably in taking formal disciplinary action and, most importantly, any decision to dismiss has not been a knee-jerk reaction.

One final point of note. A strict social media policy on personal use, yet encouragement to post or tweet about the salons business on official sites can sometimes leave employees feeling they are receiving mixed messages from their employer in respect of their media use. This is another good reason to have a clearly  communicated policy in place to provide much-needed clarity.

If you read nothing else read this…

  • A social media policy should set parameters for internet use within the workplace
  • It should outline the consequences of any breach
  • It should cover posting about work from personal sites
  • But disciplining people over social media is not always

The NHF’s Legal Lifeline helpline

The NHF’s Legal Lifeline helpline (01234 831965) offers advice on tax, legal and employment matters.

The NHF’s membership team can also offer support and advice on a range of issues, on 0845 345 6500 or 01234 831965.

Basil Long, Croner - Legal Lifeline  Quote left
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