Law firm: Social media policies needed

2013-05-02 13:46
Twitter. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Twitter. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Johannesburg - Companies should develop policies to deal with the use of social media in the workplace, a law firm said on Thursday.

"In order to strike the appropriate balance between the conflicting rights of an employer and its employees, HR [human resource] practitioners should collaborate with management in outlining a social media strategy and policy for the business," Bowman Gilfillan associate Lenja Dahms-Jansen said in a statement.

She said policies needed to elaborate what online conduct would be accepted in the workplace.

Dahms-Jansen said companies stood to benefit from social media.

However when this was not properly managed, it could result in litigation.

"While social media may differ from traditional methods of business and marketing, its regulation in the workplace involves the same issues that HR practitioners grapple with on a daily basis."


She said everyone had the right to freedom of expression, but employees often abused it by using social media to defame colleagues.

"It is important to alert employees to the fact that what they say on social media may not only negatively impact the company's brand, but also their own professional brand."

She said statements made by a company representative online could be held to the same standards as traditional media communication.

"The CCMA [Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration] has accepted that derogatory remarks made about an employer on an employee's personal social media profile may justify dismissal," Dahms-Jansen said.

"This is particularly the case where the employee's profile is not privacy protected and is open to the public to view."

However, HR practitioners needed to be wary of breaching an employee's privacy rights.

"A clear-cut social media policy should serve to considerably minimise the risk of industrial and public relations crises as well as litigation, by ensuring that the boundaries pertaining to online conduct are known, understood and acknowledged by each employee."
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