Lawyer warns bosses of festive social media risks

12 December 2014 -


Employers urged to remind staff of their online responsibilities in the thick of Christmas party season

Jermaine Haughton

Yes, it’s office-party primetime once again – and doesn’t it seem to come around quicker every year?

Amid all the celebrations, though, the risks of employees damaging their firms' images by making inappropriate comments on social media are much more concerning than at other times of the year. According to research from employment law specialists at Shakespeares, workers are far more likely to use their online presences both in and outside the workplace as yuletide excitement – and related gossip – takes hold.

Based on latest Ofcom figures, 61% of UK adults now own a smartphone, and this is the preferred method for managing their own personal networks on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Two-thirds (66%) of online adults say they have a current social networking site profile, with 96% having a Facebook account and 30% having a Twitter profile. Those networks typically include a mix of friends, colleagues and business contacts – either suppliers or customers – and are often viewed positively by bosses as a means to promote their company.

However, the report showed the most likely types of staff misuse of social networks in the run up to Christmas include:

1. Posting derogatory comments about colleagues, work activities or the company

2. Posting controversial comments that may not represent the views of the business

3. Employees drawing inappropriate associations between their working and private lives

4. Posting embarrassing photos of colleagues or business activities

5. Posting confidential business information

6. Potential liability as a result of cyber bullying or harassment

Shakespeares employment law partner Vanessa Di Cuffa warned managers to be mindful of how poor staff etiquette of those types can cause reputational damage to their firms’ brands. “Many employers,” she said, “have social media policies explaining what employees should and shouldn’t be communicating about. However, few employers remind their workforce about the policy regularly, and even fewer provide training,”

While monitoring the social media activity of all workers is difficult, Shakespeares advises bosses to at least keep abreast of the most popular apps, such as Snapchat, Instagram and WhatsApp.

Di Cuffa explained: “Messaging apps are facilitating a new means of social media interaction that many people find entertaining when enjoying a night out and this means that more content is being posted and shared. When linked to events like the work Christmas party, however, the reputational risks for employers increase.

“As a precaution,” she added, “employers should remind employees about social media policies and warn them that misuse of social media could lead to disciplinary action. In some instances, they may wish to go further and ban use of specific apps.”

Read CMI’s guide to online etiquette.

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