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Social Media Gone Mad

As an employment lawyer, it seems like I can’t get through one week without seeing at least one news story on the use, or more accurately misuse, of social media by employees.  This week’s news reported that Coronation Street actor Marc Anwar had been dismissed, allegedly for his activity on Twitter.  Here I take a look at this story in more detail and advise what preventative measures employers should be taking to minimise misuse.

Mr Anwar was sacked for allegedly posting several racist Tweets.  The comments purportedly related to the region of Kashmir, a region at the centre of a territorial conflict between India and Pakistan.  Pakistani-born Mr Anwar allegedly used racially offensive language when referring to Indians.  ITV announced that the actor would not be returning to the show with immediate effect.

Since the news broke, it has also been reported that the Police are investigating the comments as a potential hate crime and Mr Anwar has since apologised for his actions, including a public apology on his twitter account.

Sadly, this is just one of a number of high profile social media indiscretions.  Let’s not forget the high-flying footballer who, via a Tweet, aired his views on the Football Association.  Of course, it’s not just high-profile individuals who get into trouble over their social media usage.  Many employees have found themselves facing dismissal after not thinking before they Tweet.

Preventative measures

1. Have a clear, well-drafted social media policy in place.  Ensure the guidance suits your business needs and isn’t simply generic.  Make sure you outline what is and isn’t acceptable usage.

2. Make sure your policy states staff usage of personal social media will be monitored.  Just because it’s used out of working hours, staff need to be aware that action will be taken against employees where there is evidence of inappropriate social media activity.

3. Ensure all staff receive a copy of the policy and have a record of this.  Also, be sure to re-issue this periodically. 

4. If you allow business usage, have control measures in place.  Limit business usage to select individuals and ensure those individuals are trained on what you consider to be appropriate business activity on social media.

5. Consider, where appropriate, banning your employees from identifying you as their employer on any personal social media accounts.

6. Why not ban your employees accessing personal social media accounts during working hours?  After all, unless the access is business related, you are paying them to work, not browse Facebook or Twitter!

7. Encourage staff to report any misuse they come across.  Reputational damage aside, social media activity can result in claims of bullying, discrimination or harassment being raised by employees against their colleagues.

8. Take action!  Do not let social media activity which is inappropriate go unchallenged.  Investigate and, where necessary, take disciplinary action against the offending employee.

Using these helpful hints, whilst you may never eliminate misuse of social media, you can limit the damage caused by ensuring employees know action can and will be taken.  We have a wealth of experience in this area, so whether you want to discuss a social media policy, social media training for your staff or need to discipline an employee as a result of social media misuse, please contact me on 0113 350 4030 or at hello@scesolicitors.co.uk.

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SCE Solicitors is a boutique employment law and dispute resolution practice based in Leeds which advises clients nationwide.  Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here.

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