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Social Media and HR - dismissal by tweet?

20 February 2015

Not a day goes by without social media hitting the headlines in one way or another.

It goes without saying that social media is now ever-present and ever-changing.

Sites such as Facebook and Twitter have revolutionised the way many people share information in their working and personal lives. Social media can be a fantastic tool to promote a business and allow clients to feel engaged with the services being provided, but it’s also a double-edged sword that can be just as compromising as it is engaging.

It’s therefore crucial for companies to consider the extent to which they embrace this technology.  There have, of course, been numerous instances of stories about employees tweeting their way to a P45, where an employee’s action on a social media site has transcended the virtual world and become a serious workplace issue. Such activity has seen employers use online entries as evidence in disciplinary proceedings.

So the question remains, how does an employer embrace social media, whilst ensuring that employees do not abuse this important tool?  The key is taking proactive preventative measures including having a robust internal policy, which is shaped to fit your business.

Policies should specifically address the potential disciplinary consequences of posting or tweeting comments online whether on or off duty. There should be clear instructions to employees that any comments posted online must not be linked to the company unless specifically authorised.

Employers do not have to disregard an employee’s conduct because it occurs outside of the workplace. If the conduct is not private in nature, and the link to a particular employer is readily identifiable, then there will clearly be a case for disciplinary action.  In all circumstances, an employer must form a reasonable view (having taken all the relevant evidence into account) of the employee’s explanation for any comments it considers might have caused offence.

Contact anyone in our employment team if you require assistance with any social media queries or need us to create or review your company’s social media policy.

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Matthew Clayton MA LLM (Cantab), CIPP/E
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Mathew Clayton
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