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Letter on Social Media Policy

Letter on Social Media Policy

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Published by Darren Lewis
My letter to Bristol City Council HR Committee on the Social Media Policy and Changes to the Conduct Policy
My letter to Bristol City Council HR Committee on the Social Media Policy and Changes to the Conduct Policy

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Categories:Business/Law
Published by: Darren Lewis on Aug 31, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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01/25/2013

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Dear Chair and Committee MembersIntroduction and Summary1.My previous interventions into the Council's business have been adversarial Ihope this does not colour my submission which is offered in the best interestsof both the Council and its employees. In addition to being the LabourCandidate for Bishopsworth I practice as a Barrister specialising inemployment law. I represent both Claimants and Trades Union andRespondent's as diverse as multinational corporations and Bristol City Council(which I will refer to as "BCC"). Due to my candidacy, I am restricted fromgiving advice to BCC in my professional capacity due to the possibility of aperceived conflict of interest. This should not be considered legal advice andindependent legal advice should be sought before implementing therecommendations as policy and it is offered to encourage furtherinvestigation by BCC.2.On reading the document relating to Web Access for Staff/Amendments to theCode of Conduct I noticed several matters which in my opinion could givecause for concern in employment law. This could be based on amisunderstanding of current social media usage. The following issues arisea.The wording of Paragraph 11.3.2 seems overly restrictive and mightencourage employees to believe they are not permitted to identify theiremployer on social media sites (which does not appear to be theintention of the drafter)
b.
Disciplinary action arising out of Paragraph 11.3.2 where such usagehas been due to Trade Union Activity would be automatically unfair
 
contrary to s 152 Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act1992 (which I will refer to as "TULRA")
c.
 The policy does not seem to recognise the possibility for a publicinterests disclosures under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998(which I will refer to as "PIDA") and could be void by virtue of s 43J PIDA3. For the benefit of the Committee I produce the paragraph below:
11.3.2 Social networking websites
 The Council respects an employee's private life. However, it must alsoensure that confidentiality and it's reputation are protected. Employees usingsocial networking websites in their private life;lmust refrain from identifying themselves as working for the Council, ordisclose the name of Bristol City Council on it, or allow it to be identified bydetails, which has or may have the effect of bringing the Council intodisrepute.lmust not identify other Council employees or service users without theirconsentlmust not make any defamatory remarks about the Council, it's serviceusers, employees or managers or conduct themselves in a way that isdetrimental to the Councilldisclose personal data or information about the Council,or it's service users,employees or managers that could breach the Data Protection Act 1998.(e.gphotographs, images)Perceived overly restrictive language of Paragraph 11.3.23.The language of the paragraph 11.3.2 may well encourage employees tobelieve it is the Council's intention to discipline them if they state they areemployed by BCC and that they are required to get a work colleaguespermission before mentioning them in social media. This plainly can't havebeen the drafter's intention. It would preclude use of social Media like
 
LinkedIn which is effectively an online CV or prevent employees fromdiscussing a night out with colleagues.4.The drafter's intention is clearly a restatement of the old implied term of "trust and confidence" in the employment contract between employer andemployee. There is also a legitimate concern that Council employees might beperceived as communicating on behalf of the Council. The current bestpractice in commerce and industry is that employees who clearly identifythemselves as an employee are advised to insert a disclaimer onto their socialmedia site, websites or Blogs that any statement of views contained on thesite are those of the employee and are not representative of the employer'sviews.5.I see little harm in stating the term of trust and confidence in the Code of Conduct and would suggest the following amendment: The Council respects an employee's private life. However, it must alsoensure that confidentiality and it's reputation are protected. Employees usingsocial networking websites in their private life;lmust refrain from identifying themselves as working for the Council, ordisclose the name of Bristol City Council on it, or allow it to be identified bydetails, which has or may have the effect of bringing the Council intodisrepute.lmust not identify other Council employees or service users without theirconsentlmust not make any defamatory remarks about the Council, it's serviceusers, employees or managers or conduct themselves in a way that isdetrimental to the Councilldisclose personal data or information about the Council,or it's service users,employees or managers that could breach the Data Protection Act 1998.(e.gphotographs, images)

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