Employment law advisers receive regular calls on social media issues, ranging from inappropriate comments made by employees of the practice to more serious issues of online hate campaigns.
As the Christmas party season gets underway, the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS) employment law adviser Liz Symon is urging practice managers and their staff to take extra care when posting on social media sites.
Liz said: 'Using Facebook and Twitter has become a part of everyday life for a lot of people. Employees who use social media sites must exercise care when choosing to identify themselves as an employee of the practice as readers might consider information posted as being representative of the views of the practice.
'It is imperative that the practice has a social media policy that all staff are aware of. Training should be provided if necessary as staff should understand the confidentiality risks involved.
'When using social media, it can be a fine line between having a bit of fun and harming the reputation of the practice. For example, posting innocent photographs of the dental practice’s Christmas night out may seem like a good idea, but what if a patient was to see pictures of someone they recognised at the practice doing something drunken or explicit?
'Staff members might also take offence to pictures of them being posted without their consent. Employees must be respectful in all online communications relating to the practice – including actions at a work Christmas party.'
You should remember that posts on Facebook intended for family and friends may become more widely available.
Liz added: 'Having the strictest privacy settings doesn’t guarantee confidentiality and there are still risks.'
'As part of your internal policy, you may also wish to state that practice managers should not be Facebook ‘friends’ with other employees to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.'
The Employment Law team at MDDUS have a range of useful documentation available to members, including a template contract of employment, template handbook including social media policy and fact sheets addressing such topics as disciplinary, short-term absence, changing contracts and redundancy. Members interested in receiving any of these documents can email firstname.lastname@example.org