A new study on social media and the workplace conducted by Richard Nelson LLP has revealed that 49% of employed, British adults think that their employer could do more to clarify its expectations regarding social media.

In contrast to the 248 people out of 500 who asked for more clarity, only 139 (28%) said that their employer is clear enough. The remaining 113 people were not sure. Richard Nelson LLP’s employment solicitors warn that a lack of clarity around social media expectations has the potential to cause conflict and legal headaches further down the line.

In addition, only 51% of people (255) say that their employer has a social media policy that they have read. 12% of people haven’t read the existing policy, while over a fifth (22%) claimed that their workplace doesn’t have any such policy in place.

The results are even more pronounced for millennials (respondents aged 18-35). Millennials are more likely to work somewhere without a social media policy (26%, as opposed to 19% of respondents aged 35+). Correspondingly, millennials are more likely to think that their employer could do more to make their attitudes towards social media clear (58%, as opposed to 44% of older generations).

It is essential that employers make their expectations regarding social media use clear if they want to avoid difficult situations in the future. Jayne Harrison, partner and head of employment law at Richard Nelson LLP, commented: “Setting up a pragmatic and enforceable social media policy allows an employer to minimise risks associated with employee use of social media by proactively defining acceptable and unacceptable uses in the context of the employment relationship.

“The employer should consider whether or not they will encourage the personal use of social media, how to regulate the professional use of social media and their stance on acceptable social media use outside of the workplace.”

She went on to discuss different ways that employers can communicate their expectations more effectively to employees: “The publication and implementation of a specific social media policy will set clear parameters about permitted use. An employer should also consider training staff about social media and the policy they have drafted. In particular, employers should draw to employees’ attention that anything they post is, in fact, public, and the consequences that can flow from online behaviour.”

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