It is becoming increasingly common for an employer to address an employee’s inappropriate online behaviour, even if that behaviour took place outside of the workplace.
Can Your Employment Be Terminated For Posting On Social Media?
Many of us use Social Media every day and most of the time there are no repercussions for sharing an article on a website or posting a comment, for example. However, employee’s should be aware that the use of Social Media can sometimes result in disciplinary action, which can result in a Gross Misconduct dismissal. This is the case even if you were using Social Media outside of work.
Social Media Policy
It is recommended that employer’s have a Social Media policy and that this is introduced to the workforce. By doing so this will help set out what behaviour could constitute Gross Misconduct and the sanctions available to the employer. However, whilst it is recommended that an employer set out a comprehensive Social Media policy, even without one, certain action online could still result in disciplinary action.
How Can Social Media Result In Gross Misconduct?
Gross Misconduct is described as conduct which undermines the relationship of trust and confidence to entitle the employer to no longer retain the employee in their employment. The ACAS Code also sets out the meaning of Gross Misconduct.
“Some acts termed gross misconduct, are so serious in themselves or have such serious consequences that they may call for dismissal without notice for a first offence. But a fair disciplinary process should always be followed, before dismissing for gross misconduct.”
Gross Misconduct can therefore extend to an employee’s use of Social Media, if the employer reasonably considers the employee has engaged in conduct which could cause a loss of reputation to the business.
Acceptable Behaviour and Loss of Reputation
An employer has the right not to suffer a loss of reputation, by an employee’s actions, and so anything an employee posts on Social Media, which negatively impacts the employer’s reputation, could result in a disciplinary action leading to dismissal.
How Should Your Employer React?
It is expected for the employer to assess the seriousness of the Social Media activity. The employer should act promptly but also fairly. They can do this by following their own internal disciplinary procedure, or at the very least, in accordance with the ACAS Code on Disciplinaries and Grievances 2009.
It would be expected for the employer to identify whether the Social Media activity was directly linked to the business and whether the activity could have reasonably damaged the business’s reputation. The question will be determined on a case-by-case basis and depending on the findings, the employer should then consider whether the Social Media activity warrants dismissal.
Pitfalls To Be Mindful Of
It is strongly recommended you do not engage with Social Media which references your employer in what could be perceived a negative light.
THINK before you post: –
- Could your Social Media activity be considered sufficiently serious? Review what you are doing and if you feel your actions could reasonably damage your employer’s reputation, you should not engage in this activity.
- You may be feeling hot headed and think you’ll post just one negative comment and because it is only one no action will be taken against you. This is wrong. If your post is deemed to be very offensive, despite it only having happened once, this could still be sufficient for dismissal.
- You may have posted an offensive comment some time ago and thought that no action can now be taken against you. However, there is no timescale on how old the post is for an employer to address it. If your employer happens to find the post some years later this could still warrant a dismissal.
- Do not expect your Social Media post to be private. Yes, you can increase your privacy settings but there is no guarantee that this will work. Take for example an employee making a series of negative posts about the company they work for on a Social Media platform. On the surface, the employee may believe there is no link between their profile and their employment. However, Social Media is not often a private space, or it may be that the employee is friends with a colleague or supplier of the employer. It is therefore likely that such a post could be found.
How Can Lincs Law Help You?
If you have engaged in Social Media activity which you believe could result in disciplinary action or dismissal, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us to discuss your employment matter in greater detail. For a free initial enquiry, simply use the contact form, engage in a web chat, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01522 440512 and we’ll be happy to help. For further information relating to disciplinary action, you can also read our page here; https://lincslaw.co.uk/services/employees/resignation-dismissal-and-redundancy/unfair-dismissal/