How the use of social media can affect your employment

Sean McDonough, employment law and HR specialist at Mogers Drewett looks at how the use of social media can affect your employment?

Another recent Employment Tribunal case has highlighted the need for people to take a more cautious and considered approach to the way they use their social media accounts.

Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook can be useful tools for keeping in touch with family and friends and for communication and marketing purposes but if used incorrectly they can also cause considerable problems, especially in an employment setting.

A recent case involved offensive and abusive tweets posted by an employee of a games retailer resulting in him being summarily dismissed for gross misconduct. The employee brought an unfair dismissal claim against his employer which was originally upheld by the Employment Tribunal on the basis that the tweets were posted for ‘private use’. However, this decision has since been overturned as the Employment Appeal Tribunal found the employee’s failure to use privacy settings coupled with the fact that his tweets could have been seen by both staff and potential customers sufficient to justify his dismissal.

As the use of social media increases, the law in this area is under constant development and the courts are having to adapt accordingly. Currently they are trying to find a balance between an employee’s right to freedom of expression, where social media is used from personal accounts in their own time, and the need to reduce the potential for reputational risk and damage to the employer’s business.

Employers are encouraged to have clear social media policies in place, including how private social media accounts should be used, expressly prohibiting the making of offensive remarks, to reinforce the behaviour they expect from their employees and to make it clear at the outset the consequences of making potentially offensive remarks in a public setting.

Employees should review their privacy settings and seriously consider the content of any posts, tweets and comments before they upload to social media accounts bearing in mind the potentially wide impact this could have on their current employment and the length of time posts are accessible for. Employees should also consider the impact their use of social media could have on future employment prospects, as employers are using social media sites more and more as a useful tool during the application and interviewing process of recruitment.

For further information or advice on this subject or if your business requires assistance with its social media policies contact us on 01749 342323


Mogers Drewett

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