· Eve Church  · 5 min read

What Are the Rules About Posting Employee Pics on Your Site?

If you’ve decided to take photos of your people and use them on your site, the million dollar question is: Do you legally need to get them to sign a release form?

If your organization’s marketing department is talking about redesigning your company website, chances are they may be looking to make your About Us, Who We Are or Our Team page a little more engaging. And that often means including headshots of your key personnel or even of all of the team, if you’re a small business.

It’s a good move - candidates and potential customers or clients often navigate over to your ‘people page’ when checking out your company for the first time to get a feel of who you are.

And let’s face it, even the most un-design-savvy amongst us will be able to immediately recognize stock photography for what it is: A fake representation of your company and its employees.

But if you’ve decided to take photos of your people and use them on your site, the million dollar question is: Do you legally need to get them to sign a release form?

Generally speaking, you do but let’s break it down.

What are the rules about posting employee photos on your website?

Some people are sensitive to having their photo in the public domain. And that’s fair.

This can be for any reason from them simply not liking having their photo taken, to something more serious such as them not wanting a specific person - perhaps an abusive ex-partner - knowing where they’re now working.

Read more: How to Create a More Compassionate Workplace

As an employer, it is important to ensure that you’re not violating your employees’ privacy (especially if they have a valid reason for not wanting to be easily identifiable online). And you also need to make sure that you’re staying on the right side of the law.

Therefore in most scenarios you will need to get written consent from your people before you use their photo on your website or in your other marketing materials.

Having said that, there are a couple of exceptions to the rule and generally speaking you won’t need consent if:

  • The photo is taken at a work event
  • The employee is in a public place

These sorts of photos are more likely to be posted to your social media accounts - for example, when you’re showing what a great company culture you have when trying to attract new applicants to fill a role.

Posting fun company pics on your socials is also a good way of increasing employee engagement - for example, creating a private company page on your social media platform of choice is a great way to get employees to interact with one another. (Great if you’re working to a remote or hybrid model!)

Read more: 8 Ideas for Better Engagement with Your Remote Workers

But let’s go back to the employee headshots on your About Us page. What if you have an employee who is clearly unwilling to be featured? Can they flat out refuse to take part?

Can employees refuse to have their photo taken for your website?

We suggest you offer the right to refusal to your employees who don’t want to feature on your team website page or in other materials. It’s the right thing to do, particularly if they are clearly worried or anxious about the whole situation.

There are workarounds to this. In the case of an About us page, you can either leave them off the page altogether, or let them use an avatar or object instead of their face.

However, if you require employees to have their photo taken for an ID card or pass and this is a matter of security, as an employer you should have the right to insist.

What are employee photo release agreements?

Unless you work in a niche industry that comes with unique rules regarding employee waivers and releases, the reality is, a release form can be pretty broad.

In a nutshell it is the company asking the employee whether or not they agree to let their photo be used on the website or in other promotional materials.

In fact, most agreements will not even specify that the photo must be removed from the site if and when the employee leaves the organization.

Read more: Why You Should Implement an Employee Offboarding Program

Should I take an employee’s photo down if they leave?

Let’s say your sales director leaves. You will want to swap out his or her headshot with a photo of their replacement ASAP, just for practical purposes. After all, this is only going to lead to confusion for clients, both existing and prospective.

But chances are, you really don’t want to be having to change photos every single time someone leaves - especially if you’re a) a large company or b) posting photos of employees to your socials.

Not many employees who leave a company on good terms will demand that you take their photo down once they’ve departed, which is good for you as this would create a time-consuming and niggly little job to add to the to-do list!

And that’s one reason why having an open and all-encompassing photo release clause drawn up is also of benefit. If it specifies that there is no reason why the photo can’t be kept up, it will save you time and effort. Especially if the photo in question is a group shot.

What are the rules about posting employee photos: Conclusion

If you want to use employee photos on your website and social media accounts, and in your marketing or promo materials, make sure that your contracts or company policies clearly state that employees need to sign a waiver that allows you to use their picture during and after their term of employment.

This will help prevent any issues with an employee who suddenly might decide for whatever reason that they need you to remove their photo immediately. It will also stop managers from insisting that ex-employees are removed upon departure.

However, don’t sweat it, as you’ll find more often than not that the majority of people have no issue with having their photo displayed. In fact, if your company is the awesome place to work that you know it is, they’ll be pleased and proud to be associated with you!

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