Social Media At Work: We Are Still Talking About It!

Whilst reading a recent article on the BBC website, it struck me that there is still confusion for employers and employees.

The individual explains the difficult time she has had since an incident in 2015 when she lost her job due to a post on facebook. It happens that in August 2017 she won her unfair dismissal case. The details of the case are significant in part as it reflects the conversation we frequently have with clients.

We presented last week to a small group of clients, discussing social media and associated policies in the workplace. The article I read today highlights so many of the issues we discussed, it seems helpful to remind employers and employees yet again of the employment implications of posts that haven’t been duly considered.

In this situation, the employee worked at a residential home. She participated in a Friday night “sing along” and photos were taken. One of the photos included a resident. The employee had enjoyed her evening and chose to share the photos on Facebook. She didn’t realise she had breached the Surrey County Council social media policy. So why was it a problem?

There were some key elements to this that are pertinent:

  • Working in a Residential Home meant that the residents were vulnerable adults
  • The resident in the photo had not given permission for his photo to be on Facebook, and may not be considered able to do so
  • The employee had underestimated how many people would be able to view the photo, and who they might be
  • It appears that the employee may not have been fully aware of the Social Media policy and how it might relate to her work

The learning from the experience is multi faceted, but it does demonstrate that social media policies are important. It also reminds us that we may have to be very explicit with employees about how they use social media and the impact it could have in the workplace. The fact that vulnerable adults were involved adds an extra element to the case, as such situations may need a more detailed policy explaining the impact on children or vulnerable adults under the organisation’s responsibilities of safeguarding.

Whatever the outcome, it feels like everyone was a loser. This was an experienced member of staff who loved her job. She lost her income and a job she enjoyed.

We recommend that all employers have a clear policy, that is explained fully to employees, and that employees are assisted in understanding what it means in practice. We can always help with policy development and training in this area.