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First Great Western - Guidance on social networking

21 April 2011

Guidance for members on social networking sites

Guidance for members on social networking sites

Document produced by ASLF&F, Unite, RMT and TSSA about Social networking websites such as Facebook which provide useful ways to quickly and easily involve people and gain support for campaigns but should be used sensibly.

Follow the rulesMost employers have policies about the use of electronic communications that set out what they consider appropriate use of work email and whether people are allowed to use the internet and their workplace computers for private purposes during working hours and the limits they place on this use.

There are also rules about when and how employers can intercept electronic communications.

Most of us understand that browsing certain types of sites on a work computer are likely to result in disciplinary action. Fewer people, it seems, understand how their employer’s rules on conduct and behaviour can impact on how they may use social networking sites even when they are out of working hours and using their own home computers. If you choose to open up your networking site to colleagues or your manager, or you have a site that anyone can access, it is important to understand the risks.

Most sites have a series of security levels that limit the amount of content generally available. If you are unsure about what this may be, try asking someone who doesn’t have access to your confidential data how much they can find out about you online. Then think about the level of security you are happy with.

It is also important to understand the risks associated with what you put online. Unlike a passing remark to a friend as you leave work on a Friday night, posting something online means it remains there for all to see. So think twice about what you post, whether directly related to work or not. If your manager reasonably believes that what you post on a social networking sites brings your employer into disrepute, you could be dismissed.

Be careful what you say on line and how you say it. For example, don’t be derogatory or disrespectful about colleagues, managers or the employer. Inappropriate comments might lead to disciplinary action against you by your employer/department/agency or public body. And always bear in mind the contents of your employer/department/agency or public body’s electronic media policy and /or disciplinary policy and/or standards of behaviour policy.

Also remember that even if you delete postings from your profile they may still be accessible online because web pages are archived and can be retrieved.

Stay safe online:

Do’s and don’ts of social networking and blogging


  • Clearly state in biography/information sections that all views expressed are your own personal opinions and not those of your employer
  • Think carefully about the information you put online and have a clear understanding of what your employer will tolerate about what you say about your work
  • Use access controls on sites to limit what people you don’t know can see
  • Remember who you have granted more detailed access to and think about what you are happy for them to see
  • Think about setting up a separate email address to register with networking and blogging sites and preferably one that does not include your name
  • Understand the privacy policies and controls for any social networking or blogging site that you use
  • Be aware of your employer’s policies about the use of electronic communications. Your employer may not allow you to use Twitter or facebook during working hours.
  • Check your privacy settings often. Think about who you allow as ‘friends’ – and remember who they are
  • Consider that some people may not be who they say they are
  • Report users who violate the terms of use for the sites you are on.
  • Take extra care
  • About identifying who you work for because some employers take a harder line than others about enforcing impartiality rules.


  • Publish your email, telephone number, mobile or home address
  • Choose an email address that reveals private information such as the year you were born or where you live.
  • If you have any questions or concerns contact your local union representative

Mike Wheeler - Regional Organiser

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