ACAS publishes social networking guidelines.

5 August 2012

It is estimated that the use of social media platforms currently costs the UK economy billions of pounds every year, and it is hoped that the guidelines will help businesses establish protocols to ensure suitable standards of behaviour in regards to such activity. The ACAS published guidelines do not offer detailed advice, but rather provides a summary of key considerations that employer's should keep in mind when dealing with social networking issues. It is currently thought that fewer than one in ten employers have a social media policy in place to provide staff with instruction on appropriate online behaviour; ACAS recommends that businesses should set out a policy making clear to staff acceptable standards of internet usage, and provide plain and unambiguous consequences for breaches of such policy. ACAS chief executive John Taylor said, "Offline conduct should not differ from online conduct. Employees should assume that everything they say on the internet could be made pubic, and should think whether they want their colleagues or boss to read it. They might not mean it, but what they post could end up being seen by billions of people worldwide." The guidance has three key recommendations for employers: – draw up a policy on social networking – treat 'electronic behaviour' in the same way you would treat 'non-electronic behaviour' – react reasonably to issues around social networking by asking 'what is the likely impact on the organisation?' Importantly ACAS emphasises that whilst a workplace policy for social media use should be maintained, this should not overly intrude on employee privacy more than is necessary. Such guidelines should be in place to make staff and managers feel protected from online bullying and protect the reputation of the company; the guidelines should not be used to track and spy on employees beyond what is normally acceptable. Taylor has urged bosses to ensure that they have valid reasons for checking up on employees online use: "A manager wouldn't follow an employee down to the pub to check on what he or she said to friends about their day at work. Just because they can do something like this online, doesn't mean that they should". It is well worth business owners and managers considering whether current policies on social network use provide sufficient guidance to employees regarding online behaviour, and whether they would be satisfactory should a social networking based issue arise. The new guidance can be found on the ACAS website, which also provides further information For additional information please contact Alexandra Dean of Gepp & Sons on 01245 493939. The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.