Employees’ use of Social Media can cause problems outside as well as inside the workplace. Much as with any conduct outside of working hours, it is possible for employers to seek to reasonably regulate Social Media use to the extent necessary to be compatible with continued employment.
Posts on Social Media made at any time might cause an employer concern if
- They are overly critical of colleagues, the organisation or its clients
- They tend to show bullying, harassment or discrimination of colleagues
- They reveal potentially discriminatory or offensive views that might bring the organisation into disrepute, or views that are incompatible with the employee’s work for the organisation
- They tend to show that an employee is in breach of contract, for example by working for a competitor or that they are fit to work when on sick leave
A Social Media Policy can make clear that employees’ use of Social Media outside work should be compatible with their role in the organisation. It should set out what is considered inappropriate, with use of non-exhaustive examples, including that posts should not breach any Bullying and Harassment or Equal Opportunities Policies. The Disciplinary Policy should confirm that breach of the Social Media Policy could be considered misconduct or even gross misconduct depending on its severity.
The Policy should make clear that posts on Social Media can be seen by large numbers of people, even if the employee believes that they are private to a circle of friends. Staff should be encouraged to check their privacy settings regularly, and to bear them in mind when posting.
Using Social Media to publish grievances
Employees might well use Social Media to let off steam about a problem at work. General gripes are one thing but more detailed posts might be of concern. A Social Media Policy should therefore be clear that
- Employees should say nothing on Social Media that brings the organisation into disrepute
- Complaints aired on Social Media will not be treated as a grievance by the organisation, whether or not they are likely to be seen by management (for example if an employee and manager are Facebook friends)
Employers should not however ignore matters of concern aired on Social Media. A manager who sees a post suggesting that an employee has been the victim of discrimination or is being victimised for being a whistleblower should take steps to investigate that in order to minimise liability to the organisation.
Contact Louise Taft if you have any questions about Social Media use or want to discuss a Social Media Policy
020 7935 3522
Whatever your personal circumstances the above is only a guide and we would advise you to contact us to obtain definitive advice as you will appreciate that each person’s circumstances are unique to them.