Do you have clearly defined social media policies in place?

06 February 2015

Pinsent Masons talks about the first social media case involving the use of Twitter to reach the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the importance of having clear polices in place.

The use of social media in the workplace is fast-expanding so it's no surprise to see the first social media case involving the use of Twitter to reach the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

The case is Game Retail Ltd v Laws involving an employee who was dismissed after posting offensive, non-work related tweets outside of work time. The EAT overturned an employment tribunal’s decision that a dismissal for posting the abusive tweets was unfair.

The case is useful because it highlights an important difference between Twitter and Facebook - a difference that you would do well to make clear in your social media policy. With more on that, this from Emma Johnston:

"It seems to be the case that Facebook is regarded as perhaps a more private forum. The issues which arise from Facebook are likely to be things like an employee making a disparaging comment about a client or a customer or the employer itself and the ways to deal with those issues are fairly well established now.

The issue appears to be now in relation to Twitter in particular and the employee making a comment which is not linked with work, has been produced from a private account, but the issues are that an employee can follow an employer on Twitter and the employer may even follow the employee back which means that any comment made by an employee on a Twitter account is likely to be publicised to the employer and any potentially offensive or abusive comments are therefore publicised to the employer.

The importance of informing the employees of the dangers and risks of their tweets being publicised in this way can't be underestimated. Employees have to be put on notice as to what is expected of them in relation to their social media policy. The advantage of having such a policy in place is that the employees are less likely to act inappropriately and to produce inappropriate social media material but in the event that they do the benefit to the employer is that they have a clearly defined policy in place which if breached provides a way for the employer to discipline the employee."

It is worth checking that your social media policy makes that clear.