It was reported on 9 January that 11 staff in the Department for Work and Pensions have been sacked for using Facebook or Twitter at work. They are among 116 DWP employees to have faced disciplinary proceedings concerning their use of social media since January 2009. Of the remainder 34 received a final written warning, 35 a written warning and 36 a reprimand.
Most employers have a policy dealing with access to social media. For example, at Canter Levin & Berg we have a fairly detailed social media policy which assists our staff in getting the most out of social media for both their own and the Firm’s benefit. There are also very clear guidelines about what should and should not be done and said and the important interaction with other key policies, such as that dealing with equality and diversity.
We also provide our Employment Solutions subscribers with a draft policy which can be tailored to suit their particular requirements. In practice we find that there is a wide range of views about what should or should not be tolerated, from a complete ban on all social media use during working hours to the positive encouragement of contributions and participation, particularly if the company has itself embraced social media as a way of engaging with clients, customers and enquirers.
Theo Paphitis, Ryman Chairman and TV "Dragon", is at one end of the spectrum:
The explosion in online activity has resulted in an orgy of self-indulgence and exhibitionism. Businesses might have been helped by the ability to promote themselves on the internet, but they have also been hit by the web’s encouragement of time-wasting by their staff.
His view is particularly surprising, taking into account his own high profile in social media, as demonstrated by his promotion of "Small Business Sunday" on Twitter (#sbs).
So what’s the answer? It depends on what type of employer you are. Some feel it necessary to be very prescriptive about what can and cannot be done whereas others are prepared to take a more relaxed approach while perhaps judging people more on performance and results than compliance with strict rules.
From my perspective social media has contributed a great deal to raising the profile of Canter Levin & Berg and encouraging positive engagement with the Firm. We find that many staff participate, and do so predominantly in their own time. You can judge for yourself what we’ve achieved by visting our Facebook page, our LinkedIn page, our Twitter page and, of course, our Canter Levin & Berg Employment Solutions Twitter page.