Social Media and Employment Law


Social media has transformed the way we operate both inside and outside work but, for employers, the digital age has brought with it some tricky HR issues. Here’s a flavour of the top queries that our Beswicks’ employment team receives on this thorny topic.

1. What can I do about an employee making negative comments about the company on social media?
It depends whether your company has a social media policy. If it does, refer to this and follow any necessary procedures. If there is no policy in place, depending on the severity of the comments, it might be necessary to start the disciplinary process whether formal or informal. It’s a difficult area due to the balance between personal opinion and what is actually damaging commercially.

2. An employee has been running a business on Facebook while at work, can we dismiss him?
There is rarely a straightforward answer in employment law but, in this case, it is highly likely that you can dismiss. Carrying on another business is likely to be gross misconduct. It is important to check the contract of employment and employee handbook and follow the disciplinary procedure to ensure the dismissal remains fair and reasonable.

3. We have a few employees who repeatedly use social media during work hours, what can we do about this?
There are a number of options available here but they depend on whether your company has a social media policy. If you don’t have a social media policy you will need to follow a disciplinary procedure which includes an informal warning, moving to more formal action if they continue to use social media when they should be working.Where the company does have a social media policy you can follow the process within it. This may still require an informal warning prior to disciplinary action but it may also make clear to staff what is expected of them during work hours and it will highlight what is considered a serious breach which could lead straight to a final warning or even dismissal.

For advice on social media in the workplace, for a new policy or any aspect of employment law, contact Laura Franklin on 01782 205000 or for unlimited access to our expert employment lawyers, find out more about our Your HR service.