Tailoring social media policies to catch Pokémon Go


Key tips on what needs to be included

Since its launch at the beginning of July, the smartphone game Pokémon Go has swept the UK faster than you can say “gotta catch ’em all”.

The aim of the game is to catch characters hiding in real-life locations and while employers may be happy for their employees to enjoy this app in their lunch breaks, they may not want them trawling the office looking for a Squirtle and disturbing those who are working. In addition, if employees are accessing the game through employer-owned portable devices, they may expose their organisation to viruses and hackers, potentially jeopardising the confidentiality of any sensitive business information stored on them.

From a legal perspective, employers may be within their rights to engage the disciplinary policy if this happens, but if they have not clearly stated the boundaries of acceptable or unacceptable use of gaming applications, social media or other internet-based platforms, it may be more difficult to discipline employees for inappropriate activity.

There are several steps employers can take to make their social media and information technology policies more robust and mitigate the risks associated with staff playing this game and others like it. Organisations should:

  • Specify which types of applications, or use (including social media activities), the policy regulates. It is not necessary to mention the Pokémon Go game by name in a policy, but the policy should make the employer’s expectations clear.
  • Tailor the policy to suit business needs. If online marketing is a key business function, the policy should allow for the use of social media platforms and possibly internet-based applications, but in a controlled way.
  • Stipulate that employees must have separate work and personal accounts, if this is the employer’s preferred approach, and must use personal accounts when accessing social media, gaming, or similar applications for their own use (this provision is designed to limit the risk of clients or third parties associating employees’ actions with the employer). Employees should be required to make clear that their use of these applications, and any act or statement connected with their use, is in no way made on behalf of, or in connection with, the employer.
  • Distinguish between the controls that apply to employees during and outside of working time, and while on the employer’s premises or outside the workplace. It is acceptable for employers to limit employees’ use of gaming apps to areas outside the building to minimise the disruption games like this could cause.
  • Clarify in the disciplinary policy that misconduct associated with such apps taking place outside of the workplace, or outside working time, may still go to the heart of the employment relationship and may affect employees’ ability to carry out their role, and that the employer may take disciplinary action on this basis.
  • Specifically restrict employees’ use of social media to their own personal devices. It may be advisable for employers to prohibit employees from downloading apps and software to employer-owned devices without permission from their manager.
  • Make it clear that employees are completely or partially responsible for any excessive data charges incurred by them because of non-business use of employer-owned devices, such as playing the Pokémon Go game. Employers may also wish to introduce suitably drafted deduction clauses in employees’ contracts of employment to enable them to deduct unwarranted costs from employees’ pay in appropriate circumstances. Organisations in any doubt about whether it is appropriate to deduct sums in individual circumstances should seek legal advice first, as there are certain legal conditions for deductions from wages.
  • Explain in the policy how the employer will approach situations where an employee undertakes inappropriate activity (and cross refer to the employer’s disciplinary policy).
  • Set out clear terms regulating what is acceptable use for any ‘bring your own device to work’ situations where employees are using personal devices at work.
  • Ensure workplace security remains intact if there is increased use of social media by employees through email and internet applications.

If employers are concerned about the effect of Pokémon Go in the workplace, they should send a company-wide email to remind employees of their social media policy and address the use of the game at work. They can still do this where there is no social media policy in place, to confirm their expectations in relation to social media, internet-based applications, and specifically Pokémon Go.


Story via – http://www.cipd.co.uk/pm/peoplemanagement/b/weblog/archive/2016/08/12/tailoring-social-media-policies-to-catch-pok-233-mon-go.aspx

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