Social media policy for the workplace

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06 May 2016

There can be many serious consequences to your employees’ posts on social media. We frequently hear of copyright infringement, defamation, harassment and breach of confidentiality, but it is just as easy to commit a breach of contract, amend contract terms, or act in a way that can be seen as insider trading, over social media.


We see more and more employees getting into trouble for posts they made on social media. Penny Sparrow, Chris Hart and Gareth Cliff are a few that were in the media recently. The Council for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (“CCMA”) has now ruled more than once in favour of employers that dismissed employees as a result of their social media posts.

However, it is not just the employees that can get into trouble for their posts. We also see employers suffer consequences for the actions of their employees on social media. This may occur where the company does not have a proper social media policy; where work assets were used to make a post; where posts where made during working hours or where it is difficult to distinguish between a personal or business post – was it harassment between colleagues or Facebook friends?

Where social media is used for media reporting, advertising or business communications, employees sometimes fall fowl of the law causing liability for the company. Did your employee amend the terms of a contract by that Whatsapp message? The Supreme Court of Appeal found in Spring Forest Trading CC v Wilberry t/a Ecowash and Another 2015 (2) SA 118 (SCA) that a contract can indeed be amended (in writing) by a data message.

Employees’ posts can also cause severe damage to a company’s brand reputational value.

Social media is here to stay, as an employer you cannot prevent your employees from using it, but you can provide them with guidelines. It is important for employers to have proper social media policies in place and to provide training to ensure that everyone, including management, understands the risks and consequences of posting on social media.


Werksmans is offering workshops to provide employees with guidance on safe and responsible use of social media platforms. The social media workshops aim to ensure that employees take accountability and understand their liability for what they do online, as well as how their actions may affect the company.

Topics covered in the training include the following

1. The impact social media and viral posts can have on a brand

  • How employees’ “personal” views may affect the company
  • Employees’ right to freedom of speech vs the company’s right to protect the brand

2. Guidelines for using social media

  • Defamation
  • Discrimination, hate speech or offending posts
  • Anti-competitive comments
  • Breach of confidentiality
  • Breach of regulations (insider trade)
  • Cyber bullying
  • Cybercrime and fraud
  • Why the company can be liable for employees’ actions
  • The use of social media for business communications

3. Practical tips for online safety and security

  • We do not discourage the use of social media, but we provide practical guidelines and tips for safe online behaviour.

See also: Social media in the workplace

(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)

Social Media Law articles on GoLegal