There have now been a few cases through the Tribunals regarding employees misusing social media and I feel that many employers have very mixed feelings about this form of media. There are of course risks associated with the use of social media but it is also a key source of influence in society and it can certainly be beneficial raising a company’s profile hopefully for the right reasons.
A recent case (Preece vs JD Wetherspoons plc) has triggered a lot of focus on situations where an employee chooses to air an employment-related issue on social media - such as, in this case, Facebook - which is potentially damaging to the Company.
Ms Preece was a manager and received verbal abuse and was threatened by two customers in the pub where she worked. She dealt with the incidents in a professional manner but later, whilst still at work, she wrote about the incident making inappropriate remarks/comments on Facebook. Ms Preece believed that only some work colleagues and school friends could see these comments but they were in fact seen by one of the customers’ daughters who complained.
Too many times an individual posts something on a blog or on social media forgetting that, in many cases, this is now a public forum for all to see. It is no longer private and an employer may well be concerned by inappropriate comments made about, for example, individuals or the reputation of the Company.
Importantly in this particular case, the Company’s disciplinary policy stated that failure to follow the IT policy may be considered gross misconduct and that content on any blog or social media which affected the reputation of the company may lead to disciplinary action. Ms Preece had signed an agreement to confirm that she would comply with all company policies and she was ultimately fairly dismissed.
The implications of this for employers are:
- You must have clear policies and procedures - in particular ensure you have a robust IT and disciplinary policy
- Your employees must be aware of the consequences of making inappropriate comments on social media (eg Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) and
- You should be able to demonstrate through training and induction records that this has been covered
If you would like me to review your policies or discuss the implications of this then please contact me.