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Third of employers have disciplined workers over social media updates


By Ishbel Macleod, PR and social media consultant

October 14, 2011 | 2 min read

A study by law firm DLA Piper has found that a third of employers have had to discipline an worker for writing something inappropriate about their company on a social networking site, such as Facebook or Twitter.

The "Knowing your tweet from your trend: keeping pace with social media in the workplace" research also found that a further 21% have had to give employees a warning for posting something nasty about a colleague.

Despite this only a quarter of businesses have a stand-alone, dedicated social media policy, and less than half (43%) have a social media policy which existed alongside another, such as an IT or HR policy. 28% 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% of employers say they are exposed to risk because confidential information may be posted on social media sites.

Kate Hodgkiss, partner in DLA Piper's Employment practice report author, said: "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.

"Almost a third of our respondents have been forced to take action against employees because of information posted online about their organisation, and a fifth because of information posted about another individual. There is also widespread recognition that social media is not just a tool for marketing, but something that needs to be considered by all aspects of a business; from HR, to risk, to the upper echelons of corporate management.

"Our respondents recognised 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 minimise 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."

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