Chris Tutton: Be aware of responsible use of social media


For many businesses social media is now a key tool in internal communications, particularly for those with a remote or global workforce. Social media platforms transform traditional employee relations in a cost effective way, building a sense of community, culture and connection. This can be an ideal forum to disseminate updates and announcements relating to benefits schemes.

More often than not, the influence of social media on a business has already been felt before consideration of all the risks it may pose. Anything published on social media has the potential for immediate and pervasive disruption and reputational damage. It can be very difficult to delete or contain something once posted and, by its nature, it will usually be disclosable in legal proceedings.

Any employee using social media should be made aware of their obligations regarding confidentiality and data protection and the need to carefully consider the tone and content of posts to avoid any breaches of discrimination law. A prudent employer will prepare a suitable policy to address the risks posed by social media use in the workplace and inform employees that all use of social media is subject to that policy. Employers in regulated sectors will have additional pressures to consider.

When drafting a social media policy, an employer should carefully consider the balance it wishes to strike between placing a reasonable level of trust in the employee and setting clear guidelines on responsible use. Clearly defining what constitutes misuse of social media and the implications will help if things go wrong – case law has shown that equivocal policies can undermine the reasonableness of an employer’s position. 

Lastly, if using social media to communicate details of benefits schemes, consider the pace of cultural change and stay ahead of the challenges presented as social media is embedded further into working life.

Chris Tutton is partner and head of the London employment team at Irwin Mitchell