You're Fired! Can You Legally Sack Someone for Posting Something on Social Media?

Dear <<First Name>>
Can you legally sack someone for posting something on social media?
The use of social media inside and outside of businesses is growing all the time. Companies have to be increasingly careful about what is said, who says it and the implications of what is said. I recently gave a talk on the impact of social media on staff issues, so thought I would use this issue of HR Watch to tell you more about it.
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Can You Sack Someone for using Social Media?

The first thing you need to ask, in order to answer this question, is "Do you have a Social Media Policy?"
Does your employee contract or handbook discuss what is appropriate use and what is inappropriate use of social media? If you don’t have a policy, I strongly recommend that you develop one, as it can save you a great deal of hassle should a situation arise where social media is used inappropriately. It should also prevent any problems from occurring in the first place. A Social Media Policy will make it completely clear to your employees what they can and can't say about things such as their jobs, their colleagues and your business, no matter whether they are at home or at work, using a company account or their own.
What can go wrong with social media? Here are a few examples I have come across, so you know what to look for and what to avoid.
Equal opportunities. Your employees are not allowed to breach equal opportunity laws by harassing or bullying other employees. They should not say anything that is derogatory about someone else's race, religion or sexual orientation. If their comments are their own views and not related to your business or any other member of your team, they are allowed. But if one member of staff posts a comment about gay marriage in the Church of England, linked to one of their fellow workers, they would be in breach of contract and could be dismissed.
I want to leave too! If an employee leaves their job, they can post comments like "Thank goodness I'm out of there" without you being able to stop them – as long as they've served their notice period. However, if another member of your team 'likes' their post, or comments on it in anyway agreeing with them, you should find out why that person has done that. Are they not happy in their job? This is a good time for you to talk to them and sort out any issues.  You should also remind them that making inappropriate comments on Facebook, which could be detrimental to the Company, is in breach of the Social Media Policy.
Who owns your LinkedIn connections? Most companies encourage their employees to use social media sites like LinkedIn to connect with clients, prospects and suppliers. But who owns those contacts? This is something else that you need to cover in your Social Media Policy. If you run a recruitment company, you might want to ask your employees to sign an agreement that says that contacts made during their period of employment with you belong to your business. This means that if they decide to leave, they cannot take those contacts with them. This is especially important if you think an employee might leave and attempt to go into competition against you.
Keeping in touch. If a member of your team is on sick leave, you still need to keep them informed of decisions and changes in the Company that might affect them. You should invite them to meetings or conference calls, if they are well enough to attend. One of my client's employees felt he was being excluded from some important decisions while he was away from work and posted on social media that he felt excluded. His company felt that his comments were damaging to their business reputation and could prove this as the post could be seen by suppliers and customers with whom he was ‘friends’. You'll need to prove reputational damage in order to dismiss anyone in such circumstances.
Social media is a growing area and it is changing all the time. Many companies have never considered implementing a Social Media Policy for their employees, but as employees are increasingly spending more time using social media platforms, it is vital that you consider it. This way you can prevent problems from arising and be prepared for any problems that do occur.


Practical HR – Part Three of the Story

Bill is still running his successful IT company and with the summer upon us, many of his employees are taking holidays.
One member of the team, Brian, was on holiday and while he was away, he contacted Bill to see if he could extend his holiday. Brian is a key member of the sales team and Bill knew he needed him back on the planned date, especially as another member of the team had booked holiday that week. On this basis, Bill refused Brian's request.
On the Monday morning that Brian was due back in the office, Bill received an email from him saying that his flight home was delayed and that he would not be back at work until Wednesday that week. Feeling a little suspicious, Bill checked with the airline, only to be told "No, that flight had not been delayed."
Later that day, one of Brian's colleagues at work, Brenda, noticed a post that he'd put onto Facebook. "Back from a great holiday but taking an extra day off to go to a party tonight – will need tomorrow to recover from it. Great way to round off my holiday before going back to work!"
With Brian away for two extra days, Brenda had more work to do and wasn’t happy about the situation, so told Bill what was going on. (Bill hasn't quite got the hang of Facebook yet, so was pleased that Brenda knew all about it!)
When Brian eventually turned up at work again on the Wednesday, Bill and his HR adviser invited him to attend a disciplinary meeting in line with their policy and gave him the opportunity to come clean.
"But my flight really was delayed!" announced Brian.
"That's not what the airline said," responded Bill "And not what your Facebook post said."
“But ...”
“No buts – you're fired!"
OK, so maybe he didn’t literally say that, but how could Bill have legitimately fired him? Yes, you guessed it! He has a Social Media Policy that prohibits this sort of behaviour! Of course Brian also lied and that would lead to a breakdown in trust.

Employment Law Update

To help you keep up to speed with changes to Employment Law and to keep you and your staff legal, here are some of the things you need to know.
Employing Illegal Workers – from 6 April 2014, the maximum civil penalty for employing an adult subject to immigration control, who does not have the right to work in the UK, increased to £20,000 from £10,000 per illegal worker. New guidance has been issued by the Home Office in the “Full guide for employers on preventing illegal working.”
Tax-free Childcare – in autumn 2015 a new tax-free childcare scheme is being introduced as part of the Small Business Enterprise and Employment Bill. Under this scheme, eligible families will be able to claim a 20% rebate on their childcare costs up to a limit of £2,000 per child. Families with two children will do better than those with just one. Click here for more details.
Shared Parental Leave – this will impact babies born on or after 15 April 2015 which is about 9 months from now! As an employer you’ll need to update your policies and I will soon have a template policy available. Click here to read more.


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