One-fifth of employers discipline workers over social media

Only one-quarter have dedicated social media policy: Survey

More than three-quarters (76 per cent) of businesses in the United Kingdom have a corporate social media presence, according to a survey by law firm DLA Piper. Most are present on Facebook (86 per cent), LinkedIn (78 per cent) and Twitter (62 per cent) and the reasons for use are varied: brand awareness (80 per cent), marketing (60 per cent), recruitment (42 per cent), employee communication (39 per cent), employee engagement (37 per cent) and team working (28 per cent).

Many employers actively encourage the use of social media for work-related activities (65 per cent), found Knowing Your tweet From Your Trend: Keeping Pace With Social Media in the Workplace. However, 21 per cent of employers have taken disciplinary proceedings because of information an employee has displayed on a social media site about another individual, and 31 per cent because of information posted about their organization.

"The rise of social media in the early 2000s has more recently filtered through to the work environment and changed business attitudes to communication; with this new opportunity also comes new risk,” said Kate Hodgkiss, partner in DLA Piper's employment practice and author of the report.

"Our respondents recognized the benefits of social media to get their messages out to a wide audience, at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods and far more quickly. But businesses need to understand how to minimize the risks. The study highlights that many are failing to protect themselves against the legal ramifications, as social networking practices outpace business policies. The research highlights the growing need for a definitive social media policy which is regularly assessed and updated."

Only a small proportion (25 per cent) of businesses had a stand-alone, dedicated social media policy, and less than one-half (43 per cent) had a social media policy that existed alongside another, such as an IT or HR policy, found the survey of 355 senior business decision-makers and employees.

Additionally, 28 per cent of employers do not have restrictive covenants in senior employees' contracts governing the post-termination use of business contacts on social media sites and 34 per cent said they are exposed to risk because confidential information may be posted on social media sites.

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