Skype today, gone tomorrow

Whether you think the actions of Amir Khan and a certain young lady over in America, (allegedly weeks after his wedding) whereby he was performing certain actions to himself that he now would have preferred not to have done and made public, are morally bankrupt or not – is perhaps beside the point.

The very real point is that the way things are bought and sold, advertised, marketed, how relationships are entered into, or indeed ended, how businesses interact,…….how fundamentally we communicate – has changed 360 degrees from a few years ago and at such a pace that new trends are almost unrecognisable with what we once took for granted.

A straw poll in my office revealed that most of my younger lawyers saw their mobile phone as a means of talking to someone as a secondary function to everything else they use it for.

With knowledge comes great responsibility, and so often we are shown (on our smartphones!) that the Pandora ’s Box each and every one of us now carries is not fully understood or its repercussions for unwise usage. The news contains very real cases of inappropriate use, or proper use being used inappropriately and the problems caused, and especially so since your employees whilst at work are not quarantined from the internet – far from it. In most work places they are encouraged to use it to enhance business opportunities.

I often get asked fairly standard questions as to what rights employers have regarding their employee use of their phones during work time, the messages that are sent if on a company owned smartphone, or indeed what implications are there regarding employees accessing various social media sites from other company property be it a laptop or I-pad etc.

The troubling fact is that the law is slow to keep up with modern technology and at best will play catch up eventually. There is no specific regulation of social media and as such existing employment and data laws apply.

To fend off as much ambiguity between what an employee can and cannot do, the rights and obligations of the employer to access materials published on firm time either on their or your device, and whether in a personal or corporate capacity, a robust and sensible social media / data user policy should be adopted clearly setting out the rights of both parties in the employee handbook.

The social media policy could also extend to ownership issues for example on linkedin, which is predominantly a business platform where an employee may harvest a large number of followers for your business – you would not wish for that employee to leave with all of those contacts which you probably encouraged him or her to acquire during their time with you. Again, if this is covered in your social media policy it resolves the issue since your employee, you can argue, knew what the state of play was from day one.

No single policy is going to cover every eventuality, as the range of platforms is now so diverse, however, failure to embrace the problem will only lead to amplifying the difference between expectations when you come to part company.

If you want to see an up to date social media policy wording, please feel free to contact me, Giles Ward at Milners Solicitors by email or telephone 07789401411 and I will send you one on the house and by any means you want, but not by post!

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