By Marcus Leach

Photos and videos posted on Facebook and Twitter following office Christmas parties could do great damage to businesses’ reputations, yet two thirds of bosses are powerless to deal with them, according to experts.

Christmas parties have long since been a cause of headaches for employers due to the myriad of health and safety and management problems which can be caused by a few over-zealous staff — and this has only got worse now that evidence of any misdemeanours can quickly find its way online through social media.

Yet 65 per cent of employers have no policy in place to deal with any material posted online by staff which could tarnish their employers’ reputation, according to a survey of small businesses carried out by support specialists, ELAS.

“Part of a manager’s role at any Christmas party used to be to try to keep a lid on any problem behaviour and deal with it afterwards behind closed doors," Peter Mooney, head of employment law for ELAS, said.

“But now, any misconduct can be plastered all over the internet long before the manager even finds out — making issues more difficult to deal with internally, but also causing significant damage to the company’s good name.

“It has grown into a massive problem and we are seeing more and more enquiries from employers unsure how to handle issues where social media is a factor.

“Yet even now, very few companies have social media guidance or have even tried to tell their staff what is and isn’t acceptable online.”

In a survey of 1,000 small and medium-sized businesses, ELAS found that almost two thirds (65 per cent) had no social media policy and had made no attempt to outline what was acceptable for employees to say and post online.

“Most businesses are very keen to ensure that staff don’t waste company time tweeting or browsing Facebook, but assume that what staff say and do online in their own time is none of their business," Mr Mooney added.

“That’s just not true, especially when it comes to publishing details of what the company does, either during the working day or during office parties after hours.

“Employers are well within their rights to remind staff that they are ambassadors for their companies around the clock and make clear that anything which brings the business into disrepute cannot be tolerated.

“If they do, and ideally write these policies into their employment contracts, they are then in a position to swiftly deal with any online content which reflects badly on the business.

“If they don’t, then what started out as a bit of fun between colleagues at a Christmas party can quickly become a damaging and uncontrollable storm which leaves your company’s good name in tatters.”

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