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Hot Topic: Social Media

The issue of employees making inappropriate social media posts is back in the spotlight following the announcement that ITV News host Alastair Stewart stepped down from his role after making what has been described by ITN as an error of judgement in his use of social media.

It has been reported that he was involved an exchange on Twitter in which he quoted a Shakespeare passage including the phrase “angry ape” to a black Twitter user.

It’s not just high profile employers that need to be alert to issues involving social media. It can be all too easy for employees who are making social media posts in their own time and using their own devices to forget to think about whether what they post is appropriate and whether this could have an impact on them in the workplace.

So, what do employers need to remember when it comes to employees and social media? Here are some top tips:

  • Have a social media policy in place and ensure that this is clearly communicated to all employees. This should reduce the likelihood of any issues arising and if they do, it can make it easier to address.
  • Keep things in perspective – if an employee makes an inappropriate posting of some kind that impacts your business, their role or that employee in the workplace, remember that online misconduct should be treated in the same way as ‘off-line’ misconduct. The starting point for dealing with the matter in most cases will be to investigate to determine what action is appropriate in the circumstances.
  • If it’s appropriate to take disciplinary action, remember that any outcome should be fair and reasonable. This is particularly important in the case of dismissals as employees who have two years service or more can complain to an employment tribunal if they feel they have been unfairly dismissed. There are a number of cases where employers have been found to have unfairly dismissed an employee for conduct on social media.

For example, in Young v Argos an ex-employee put on her Facebook page that Young’s manager was as much use as a chocolate teapot. Young indicated that she liked the comment by clicking the ‘like’ button on the page. She also posted that this had been the worst year in her 15 years with Argos and that she was happy her ex-colleague had escaped. Argos dismissed Young for gross misconduct on the basis her comments amounted to harassment and bullying contrary to the company’s social networking policy. The tribunal found that the dismissal was unfair  – no employer could have concluded that the employee’s actions amounted to gross misconduct.

If you are concerned about an employee’s actions on social media, please contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd for advice on the facts of your case.

If you would like assistance with any employment law matter, please do not hesitate to contact us as we are happy to help.