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Advice line - Blurring the boundaries

It’s good to talk, but be careful – you never know who’s listening, warns Jess Belmonte

No-one can fail to be aware of the explosion of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

While these sites bring with them amazing potential for communicating, networking and campaigning, they also have the capacity to cause serious problems for employees and employers alike.

With the massive increase in social media users the CSP’s employment relations and union services has seen a proportional rise in disciplinary cases associated with Facebook and Twitter.

It’s tempting to believe that work is work and your private life is, well, private. Unfortunately the use of social media sites has started to blur the boundaries.

In addition, members who are regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) are bound by their Standards of Performance, Conduct and Ethics which demand high standards of personal conduct in all arenas.

It is best to assume that there is no such thing as a private comment on Facebook or Twitter. Although it may feel sneaky and unethical, it is not strictly unlawful for universities, employers and potential employers to look at your online profile.

You may have the highest level of privacy settings but a ‘friend’ can easily share your status or comments with a much wider audience.

Likewise, problems with colleagues, managers or employers should not be aired in an online forum. CSP members should speak directly to the person concerned and attempt to resolve the issue informally.

If this is unsuccessful members should speak to their workplace steward (or direct to the CSP if they have no steward).

Of course, comments posted should never be discriminatory or constitute harassment of an individual.

Sharing photos and images is a popular aspect of social media but posting photos of the workplace should be treated with extreme caution.

When used thoughtfully, social media can be an amazing tool for getting your message across, linking up with like-minded people and catching up with friends.

CSP members should adopt sensible precautions to ensure that their contributions do not get them into trouble.

For more detailed guidance, visit: www.csp.org.uk/socialmediaguidance

Jess Belmonte is national officer with the employment relations and union services at the CSP

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