Social media has been growing leaps and bounds. With easy access and connectivity, users of social media are increasing. With that, it is also important that so many people entering the workforce are users of these social media. The employees share, post, and communicate over various social media platforms.
Thus, Social Media has become a powerful public relations tool. It can affect the image and reputation of the companies. Employees can share their personal views and ideas about the company online, that can impact the reputation of the company. With so many people having simple and unfiltered access to a global audience, it is becoming increasingly difficult to monitor what is written about a business.
Hence, in order to safeguard the goodwill and reputation of the company, the concept of Social Media Policy has been introduced in several companies.
WHAT IS SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY?
Social media policy in nutshell is a set of guidelines for the employees of the company that guides them how to use social media while being in the organization. The purpose of this policy is that it aims to protect the reputation of the company and also incentivize the employees to promote the company on social media and internet.
There are many companies that have a detailed social media policy in place. It lays down a clear distinction of acceptable and unacceptable use of social media by the employees of the company.
It outlines the responsibilities of the employee such as limiting or restricting the posting about anything related to the company, limiting usage of social media during work hours, communication with company clients or customers via personal social media handles, etc.
Certain restrictive social media policies even put in place a mechanism that an employee needs to follow before posting anything related to the company on their feed. It is also often widely noticed that the company also keeps a track of whether the company or the brand is gaining traffic via the feature of ‘mentions’ or ‘hashtags’ over any particular social media platform.
It is important that such policies are kept in place because otherwise there is no way to penalize the employees for misusing the social media in a way to harm the company. The common issue that arise is that it becomes difficult to keep balance between protection of corporate interest and privacy rights of employees.
RIGHTS OF THE EMPLOYER TO COLLECT THE DATA OF EMPLOYEES FROM SOCIAL MEDIA
Nowadays, companies have started hiring from several professional social media platforms such as LinkedIn. In such circumstances, issues arise regarding the fact that whether employers have the right to collect the data of employees from social media platforms.
When the information is available in public domain, it will not amount to Sensitive Personal Data (hereinafter referred to as “SPD”) under the Information Technology Act, 2000 (hereinafter referred to as “IT Act”). Hence, the Employer can freely use such data for its own employment or record purposes.
CYBER BULLYING AT WORKPLACE IN THE DIGITAL AGE
Unregulated usage of social media can also lead to publicly posting derogatory or defamatory remarks about fellow employees, customers, top level management etc. In the recent decade, there has been rise in the cases of employee abuse.
The negative use of social media can also lead to harassment of employees by one another. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 also covers such instances in relation to female employees.
How much can an employer regulate?
Social media policies raises an important legal question, i.e., to what extent can an employer regulate the usage of social media by an employee. Currently, we do not have any legislation that governs data protection or privacy. Even though there is no specific mention of Right to Privacy, the judiciary has recognised it under Article 21 of the Constitution.
Every citizen of India has the right to freedom of speech and expression. It extends to use of social media as well. However, certain reasonable restrictions, such as in the form of social media policies, are imposed in order to safeguard the corporate interests and goodwill of the companies.
Employers can restrict, monitor or regulate the use of social media while at workplace or using it through office tools. Employers must communicate to the employees the restriction that are put on them before taking any actions. Employers can appoint a Designated Person (hereinafter referred to as “DP”) that oversee the implementation of policy. The DP will ensure that in case of any violation of the policy, adequate steps are taken. It is important to note that such steps are taken only for legitimate business purpose.
Employer can choose to block such social media sites from the company computers. It is also done to prohibit the waste of working hours by employees. Employer can also put certain restriction in the policy from exposing confidential company information or making defamatory statements.
Employer can also draft a non-disclosure agreement that includes clauses pertaining to non-disclosure of company information on the cyberspace. It can act as a legitimate contract and can be enforced. Employee contracts, Human Resource Policies, etc., can include certain provisions related to usage of social media. It should further clarify that employees will be held liable for the misconduct.
A training or workshop that makes the employees aware about the consequences of sharing such information online can help the employees understand the gravity of the situation. It will also lead to mitigation of legal consequences if employees are well aware of the consequences.
A company faces a lot of reputational and legal issues for what is being said online. Social media in today’s digital era holds very influential place. It has the power of changing the brand image, reputation, stock prices of shares of company. When there is a proper social media policy coupled with effective implementation, it will benefit the company in many ways.
Social Media Policy can be used to promote the brand on the Internet as well as to protect the brand image from being ruined by actions of employees. In the backdrop of the same, it is important for the companies to have an exhaustive social media policy, keeping in mind the personal interests of the employees and the corporate interests of the company.
– Team AMLEGALS assisted by Ms. Devanshi Soni (Intern)
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