A growing number of businesses are taking disciplinary action against employees because of information posted on social networking sites, according to a new study.
A survey of senior business decision-makers undertaken by DLA Piper found that one in three businesses has instigated disciplinary proceedings against an employee because of information posted about their workplace on a social media site, such as Twitter or Facebook, and one in five because of information posted about someone else.
This is despite the fact only 25 per cent of businesses have a stand-alone, dedicated media policy, and only 43 per cent have a social media policy that exists alongside an IT or HR policy.
However, the study also revealed that the lack of a social media policy does not mean workplaces are failing to embrace social media.
Seventy-six per cent of businesses that responded to the survey have a corporate social media presence and 65 per cent actively encourage the use of social media for work-related activities.
Kate Hodgkiss, a partner in DLA Piper's UK employment practice and author of the report, said the study reveals that many businesses are failing to protect themselves against the potential legal ramifications of social networking practices.
"The research highlights the growing need for a definitive social media policy that is regularly assessed and updated," she said.
The situation in Asia is remarkably similar, according to Pattie Walsh, DLA Piper's head of employment, pensions and benefits in the Asia Pacific.
"Social media's flexibility and mass appeal have meant greater opportunities both locally and internationally, and the study shows that many businesses are quick to jump on the social media bandwagon," said Walsh.
"However, controlling and monitoring the information placed on these social media sites also means greater burdens for employers everywhere. These sites can impact the full breadth of the employment cycle, so employers must aim to reduce problems and liabilities at every stage of employment from hiring to firing, starting with the implementation of a social media policy."