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The Risks of Social Media in the Workplace

Published November 01, 2016 (last updated December 3, 2020) -

The use of social media may seem like a minefield of risk for employers, especially with confusion around what constitutes bullying via social media and what constitutes ‘the workplace’.

To be clear, a worker is bullied at work if a person (or group of people) repeatedly acts unreasonably towards them or a group of workers, and the behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.

Whilst social media can be a very effective marketing or communication tool, no employer wants their workforce to spend the entirety of their day browsing their Facebook feed, or updating their LinkedIn profile. So what can employers do to ensure social media is properly used within their business?
Below are our top five tips for minimising the risks of social media in the workplace.

  1. Social media/internet policies
    Have a clear policy on the use of social media and the internet at work. Where not related to an employee’s role, you could also consider blocking access to social media sites on work computers and prohibit comments about matters relating to the employer or its customers on the internet.
  2. Clear conduct expectations
    Employers should also have and enforce policies around appropriate conduct in relation to work colleagues at all times, as conduct on social media, during breaks or even outside of work may still amount to bullying.
  3. Anti-bullying policy
    Have a policy which defines what behaviour may constitute bullying and harassment, and the consequences of such behaviour. It should also explain the process for raising any complaints and the investigation process which will be followed.
  4. Investigate
    If you received a complaint from an employee, take it seriously. Employers have an obligation to investigate reported cases of bullying. Careful consideration needs to be given to whether the events actually occurred ‘at work’, which will require careful consideration of where the events took place, when the events took place, and who was involved in the events.
  5. Training
    Ensure all staff are trained on the policies and that managers know their responsibilities to enforce them. If your policies are not enforced and your staff are not aware of them, they not worth the paper they are written on.

If you need assistance in reviewing or developing policies around anti-bullying, social media or conduct, please call Employsure today on 0800 568 012.

About Employsure

Employsure is one of New Zealand’s largest workplace relations advisers to small and medium businesses, with over 5,500 clients. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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