Social media and the workplace

Posted 31/01/2018 : By: Ross Strowger

The problems

We’ve all heard stories in the press regarding employees making derogatory comments about their employer via social media and risking the employer’s reputation as a result. So, what do you do if you find out that one of your own employees is posting negative feedback about your organisation on Facebook or Twitter, for example?

The first step is to undertake an investigation into any allegation of this sort and establish the facts before moving to any kind of formal action. Often it is a colleague who blows the whistle on the employee in these circumstances and employers can be nervous of using the information in a disciplinary context. However, if evidence of the negative comments has been obtained lawfully e.g. by the whistle-blower giving permission for the employer to view their social media account, then it is fine to use the evidence in a disciplinary hearing.

In some recent tribunal cases, where disgruntled employees have badmouthed their employer on social media, the courts have been willing to uphold dismissals, subject to a number of conditions:

  1. The employers in the successful cases had a social media policy in place which had been communicated to all employees.
  2. The policies gave examples of what would be regarded as unacceptable conduct on social media.
  3. The policies included a warning that employees should not assume their social media activity was private.
  4. The policies stated explicitly that a breach of the policy could result in disciplinary action and potential dismissal.
  5. The employers followed a fair procedure when investigating the allegations and holding disciplinary hearings.

The most important advice to employers is to check your existing HR policies and procedures and make sure they give you the cover you require for this type of situation.

The positive side of social media at work

Social media has developed a bad reputation in the employment context but can also be a useful tool from the point of view of recruitment and employee engagement. For example, targeted groups on Linked In and Facebook can help promote the employer’s brand to potential new employees and enable new joiners to network before meeting face-to-face on their first day. This approach can be particularly suitable for graduate intakes or apprentices, for example. Going forward, the message is clear: social media is here to stay so employers need to work with it and help shape it, rather than avoiding it.

For help with drafting a social media policy or dealing with breaches of an existing policy, contact the Ashtons employment team on or call 0333 222 0989.

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