Social Media And Employment Law:
What You Need To Know
Everyone loves a bit of harmless fun on social media, right? Posting photos of your weekends away on Instagram, catching up with the family on Facebook, or interacting with your favourite celebrity on Twitter. It’s all a bit of harmless fun.
Or is it? At what point does people posting on social media become a negative for business owners and HR departments? When it’s harassing someone? When it’s being used to spread negativity, hate speech or racism? Or when it’s directly negative about something, like the posters employer, co-workers or workspace? For employers, social media has always represented a minefield, especially when it comes to HR. And while it might seem like innocent fun, there are plenty of examples of people posting on social media and losing their jobs over it.
So today we wanted to ask you, as a business, how are you managing social media? Do you have a social media policy in place, and are your employees sticking to it? Or are you letting everyone do what they like, since nothing bad has happened so far?
Real Reputational Risks
All too often we see problems crop up because an employee posted something risqué or offensive on their social media, forgetting that their co-workers or boss is one of their online friends and can see everything they say. These incidents usually land the poster in hot water, as employers struggle to work out what to do about it.
The main reason managing employees use of social media remains at the top of employers’ list of concerns is the real reputational risk it poses to their business. If an employee is seen posting something offensive, it could reflect badly on the business and cause a lot of problems.
Social Media In The Real World
It can be a bit difficult to see how employees social media use could impact your business, so we wanted to share 2 real world examples of how dismissals over social media can play out at tribunal.
- In the case of Whitham v Club 24, the tribunal could not see how a post likening work to a nursery would in reality damage the relationship between the employer and the client whom the claimant managed.
- In Crisp v Apple, the tribunal agreed that sarcastic comments about Apple products could absolutely cause reputational damage. Although the comment was made outside of work, the dismissal of an Apple employee was deemed fair.
Creating Your Social Media Policy
The simplest way to protect your business and your reputation is to create a social media policy for all employees. Ideally you will need to work with a solicitor to create this, but a few points to include might be:
- Explain what is and what is not acceptable behaviour at work when using the internet, emails, smartphones and networking websites.
- Be clear about the fact that all employees represent the company, and how you expect them to behave online.
- If an employee is representing your company online (using company accounts), set appropriate rules for what information they may disclose and the range of opinions they may express
- Detail the penalties for breaking these rules
- This should go all the way up to the CEO, who should be leading by example when it comes to social media behaviour.
Of course, your social media policy should include more detailed points, but this should be enough to get you started.
How Can You Stay On the Right Side?
Of course, handling new changes to employment law can be tricky, especially if you’re running a small HR department. If you’re having issues with staff, social media or creating policies that will be followed, it doesn’t hurt to get a little help and advice from the employment law experts. At Herefords, we offer hands-on, practical advice and guidance around all elements of employment law. Our service is all about guiding you through the minefield, helping you to understand the law and how it applies to your business, including any new changes that come in. And thanks to our new Employment Law Retainer, you can be confident that your key HR decisions and advice are compliant and appropriate. You can find out more about our employment law retainer by clicking here.
Or for more information on handling issues in the workplace, you can get in touch with us and book your free consultation.
0203 669 2216