What You Post on Social Media Can Affect Your Job
Employees in the UK can be disciplined or dismissed from their jobs if they act inappropriately on social media.
If you are currently facing a disciplinary meeting at work because of something you posted in social media or online, get in touch with our Employment Solicitors for free initial legal advice. Call 08002605010 or request a callback.
Millions of people use the likes of Facebook and Twitter to talk about their daily lives or share information and thoughts with their friends. But many fail to realise that social media is a public forum. That means there’s little difference between posting a message online and having your story printed in a newspaper or magazine, or standing on a soapbox and shouting to the masses in the busiest cities.
As in person, an employer’s reputation can be enhanced or damaged online. As a result, Employment Tribunals have found that, in many cases, an employee was disciplined or dismissed fairly, based on their social media activity.
This may surprise some people who consider what they post online as something that happens outside the course of employment. However, it demonstrates that an employee can’t hide behind the fact that if they act inappropriately on social media, then it occurred away from the workplace and outside normal working hours.
When Can Employers Take Action?
Employers are more likely to take disciplinary action where any online comments or posts damage their company’s reputation. This could occur where an employer is listed on an individual’s profile page. An employer could then take action if the employee posts inappropriate or offensive messages, photos or videos.
Even when the comments can’t be linked to your employer are, on the face of it, private, once they find out, it may be viewed in a way that it does have an impact on your job and prompt your employer to take action against you.
For example, there was a case in 2011 involving the manager of a Wetherspoons pub who made inappropriate and abusive comments about two customers on her Facebook account. She had over 600 people on her friends list, and one of them made a complaint to her employer. The employer dismissed the manager because of the comments, and the Employment Tribunal found them to be correct in doing so.
What to Think about before Posting Online
Most companies now have a Social Media Policy, which governs what is acceptable behaviour and when action can be taken against an employee. You should read your employer’s Social Media Policy to make sure you don’t do anything that affects your job.
In general, you should be mindful of making any comments that:
- Can be viewed by a large number of people
- Are abusive or offensive in nature
- Criticise your employer or their clients/customers
- Amount to bullying or harassment
- Reveal confidential information
- Are against the law, as you, and your employer could face legal action as a result.
How to Protect Yourself
First, make sure you don’t post anything that might fall under anything listed above.
Secondly, you should consider any posts you’ve already made and remove anything that’s in the above list.
Alternatively, most social media platforms let you restrict your content so that only certain people can see it. Just be mindful that this isn’t a foolproof plan, as one of those who can see your posts may be the person who reports them.
Thirdly, make it a rule never to post anything about work after you’ve had a night out on the town... because what may seem funny late on Saturday night, could have disastrous consequences on Monday morning.
If you’re unsure whether making a post could get you into trouble, it’s better not to make the comment in the first place.
Employers Can and Do Look at Social Media
As mentioned earlier, social media is a public forum, so there’s nothing stopping your employer from searching online for information about you and the comments you have made online.
That’s why many employers are increasingly looking at a person’s online content when they apply for a job – so anything considered inappropriate by an employer could not only lose someone their current job; but the next one too!
On the other hand, a well-managed social media profile that shows the image you want to project to employers, such as an interest in a particular field or traits that make you a good cultural fit for a business, could give you a positive advantage in the application process.
What If I’m Dismissed from My Job?
Each case will depend on its own facts. But if you’ve been dismissed for comments you made on social media, it could be that you’ve been dismissed unfairly. In such cases, you should generally follow your employer’s internal procedures, which may involve exercising your right of appeal or even issuing a grievance.
If you have exhausted your employer’s own internal procedures, then get in touch with one of our Employment Lawyers for free initial legal advice.
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