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Saturday, 01 November 2014

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The pitfalls of social media in workplace

CUMBRIAN businesses are being warned that they need to take steps to protect themselves from the damage that could be caused by staff making inappropriate Tweets and Facebook comments.

A business may find itself embroiled in controversy, involved in costly employment tribunals or even liable for damages because of comments made by staff on social media if adequate steps are not taken.

The warning comes from Vaughan Jones, of Burnetts solicitors, who will be one of the speakers at a half-day conference organised by Cumbrian Newspapers next month.

He will focus on how companies need to ensure they have a social media policy in place to protect themselves from the legal pitfalls of using networks such as Twitter and Facebook.

In the USA eight per cent of firms report that they have dismissed staff for inappropriate use of social media and there are signs that it is becoming a fraught issue in UK workplaces.

Recent controversies have included:

  • 13 cabin crew staff sacked by Virgin Atlantic for Facebook comments such as calling customers “chavs”
  • 150 police officers disciplined over their Facebook posts. Officers were also said to have revealed operations, tried to befriend crime victims or posted inappropriate material.
  • A senior teacher sacked for commenting on her pupils’ behaviour on Facebook with this comment: “By the way, [class] 8G1 are just as bad as 8G2.”

Mr Jones is a partner at law firm Burnetts which has offices at Westlakes Science & Technology Park, as well as Carlisle and Newcastle, and a specialist in internet and intellectual property law.

He believes that firms can avoid problems if they equip themselves with a social media policy and guidelines for staff, adding: “There is no doubt that social media provide a useful marketing and communication tool for businesses but employers should be aware that employees’ use of Facebook, Twitter and similar applications also brings risk, not least of which is the potential for inappropriate behaviour:

“Steps should be taken to manage employees’ use of social media at work and also to minimise reputational damage.”

Mr Jones is one of four speakers at the social media for business event at Lakes College on May 17.

There will be also presentations giving an overview of how to use social media, how to make the most of Facebook pages and how to build a following on Twitter.

Local companies who have already made good use of social media will also be on hand to provide informal advice and demonstrate the best use of Facebook and Twitter.

For more details and to book a place go to http://tinyurl.com/6buzvy5

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