Social media sites are now gradually becoming a part of the everyday life for work and recreation.

A recent study by law firm DWP LLP found that a staggering 60.7% of employers allow their employees to access social networking sites whilst at work.

The results showed that majority of the employees who allowed access to such sites during working hours, did so on a restricted basis, ie over lunchtime or within a specific time slot.

For many organization social networking is not only used by its staff for recreational purposes it is now used for PR, marketing, networking with professional contacts, recruitment to identify new opportunities and information sharing.

However, whilst such benefits were identified, a large majority of participants (89.3%) identified such social networking sites as also having a significant security and business risk.

The key risks identified were disclosure of confidential information and bringing the company into disrepute. There were also risks of defamation as disgruntled employees may make adverse comments about their employers on such websites.

DWF LLP has advised that employers need to balance the advantages and disadvantages of allowing their employees to access social networking websites.

It says policies should include clarity as to expectations of employees, levels monitoring and enforcement, data protection issues, acceptable usage levels, protection of confidential information, ownership of intellectual property and also clear linkage with discrimination and harassment policies.

Contracts should also be reviewed, it advises, particularly in respect of post employment confidentiality, client lists and non solicitation clauses.

The law firm also highlights that in the light of current ongoing cases regarding employees being dismissed for criticising their employers on Facebook along with cases about ownership of contacts on LinkedIn, it is important that employers keep up to date with the latest development

Despite the fact that the majority of participants feel that social networking websites are a “good” development, only 42% of participants have policies in place about the use of social networking sites.