Unfair Dismissal: The Problem with Social Media

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Dismissals as a result of Social Media becoming more prevalent 

Never before have the boundaries between work and home been so blurred. Where once disgruntled employees poured their woes out to each other in the pub after work they now take to social media to air their grievances.

In 2016 API Microelectronics Limited made an announcement that they were considering a move of location which affected a number of employees. Following this announcement an employee with 17 years’ service; Mrs Plant posted comments on social media account Facebook which were deemed inappropriate and subsequently invited to a disciplinary hearing.

Mindful of the impact of social media API Microelectronics had introduced a social media policy the year previous to the comments which highlighted to employees that “conversations between friends on Facebook are not truly private and can still have the potential to cause damage” concluding that “Serious breaches will be regarded as gross misconduct and may lead to summary dismissal under the respondent’s disciplinary procedure”.

During the disciplinary Mrs Plant did not deny the comments she had made but stated she did not realise that her Facebook or that her comments were directly linked to the company. The disciplinary Manager having considered the derogatory nature of the comments, the breach of the social media policy, and in the absence of an adequate explanation took the decision to dismiss Mrs Plant. As a result, Mrs Plant appealed, and the basis was mostly her 17 years clean service.

At the Employment tribunal whereby, Mrs Plant was citing unfair and wrongful dismissal it was considered that albeit the decision may be harsh, they believed that the respondents did take into account the Claimants long service and clear record but nevertheless dismissed for a clear breach of the Policy. They deemed that this did fall within the range of a reasonable responses open to an employer. Concluding that the dismissal was therefore not unfair or wrongful.

But what does this mean for your business?

Employees are often surprised to find that they can be dismissed for what they say in the privacy of their own homes, outside of work hours. Employers have always been entitled to dismiss employees for their conduct outside of the workplace where such conduct might impact on their ability to do their jobs but in relation when it comes to social media it is imperative to have a policy in place to enable you to manage such misconduct and as such protect your business.

Given that 58% of people in the UK have a Facebook account you need to give your employees clear guidelines on what they can and cannot say about your business online. The best way to do this is with a social media policy.

Missing a Social Media Policy in your workplace? Don’t worry – we can provide you with comprehensive documentation/templates, or review your current information in line with your business needs. Contact us to protect your business today on 0844 327 2293 option 1.

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