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Social media is changing the way people and businesses communicate at such a pace that it has created a number of challenges for employers – and for the legal system.

Facebook was founded over 10 years ago now, and since February 2004 has pervaded our lives to the extent that a staggering number of people now use it every day – 24 million people in the UK alone use Facebook every day.

But despite being so widely used, many businesses are still failing to get to grips with social media in a satisfactory way – meeting the needs of today’s employees, whilst maintaining discipline and keeping an eye on reputation management as well.

While some adopt the ‘safety first’ policy that sees social media websites blocked totally from workplace machines, to many employers this simply isn’t possible or practical.

Further, some may wish to show that they trust staff to use social media discretely and responsibly, and on their own time.

In this respect, the most important thing to have in place is an internal social media policy document, which lays out the ways in staff are allowed to represent themselves and their employer on social media.

Many companies have internet usage policies, but these are likely to need to be checked and updated frequently – and the social media policy should form part of that.

But it’s not just what goes on within the workplace but the comments people can make outside work. An employer recently failed at a tribunal after it was ruled to have unfairly dismissed an employee who, the employer claimed, had been critical of her workplace and colleagues in a Facebook conversation.

This is where pitfalls can lie, and as an employer dealing with behaviour on social media, it is critical to ensure you seek legal advice before acting if you consider someone to have transgressed your policy.