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Tuesday, 11 February 2020 11:21

Social media policies and why your business needs one

Gotelee Solicitors explain why a social media policy is important to all businesses.

Social media allows individuals to communicate with each other publicly and privately, and its use has become increasingly popular inside and outside of the workplace. A recent case has shown that Kimberley Clayton close up Goteleeprivate social media chat groups can be an extension of the workplace, and an employer has a duty to ensure that employees do not behave in an unacceptable manner.  In Case v Tai Tarian, an employee made comments on a WhatsApp chat group, of which other colleagues were members, about a female colleague. The comments included remarks about her speech, weight and personal hygiene and a suggestion that she was “autistic”. The comments caused upset, resulting in a complaint and the employee’s dismissal. The Employment Tribunal held that the employee’s comments, and use of this group to encourage others to behave in an unacceptable manner towards his colleague, amounted to bullying and harassment. Furthermore, the employer’s decision to summarily dismiss the employee for gross misconduct was fair and reasonable in the circumstances.

This highlights the importance of employers outlining to their employees what use of social media is acceptable, and what behaviour is unacceptable and could amount to misconduct. A social media policy can be very useful here and can also assist an employer to minimise other risks associated with social media, such as unauthorised disclosure of confidential information or personal data.

As an employer you can be held vicariously liable for discriminatory acts carried out by your employees “in the course of their employment”, even if the acts were carried out without your knowledge or approval. Case law has shown there is a fine line between what is and what isn’t “in the course of employment” and this can extend to acts of discrimination that take place outside of work, such as at work-related social events. An employer will have a defence if it can show that it has taken all reasonable steps to prevent harassment. Having properly implemented social media and anti-harassment policies will put your business well on the way to establishing this defence. It will also enable you to ensure your employees know what standard is expected of them inside and outside of work; possibly avoiding a discrimination claim in the first place.

GOTELEE 4 COLOUR compressedGotelee can assist you in putting together a social media policy which reflects your business’ culture and your attitude to social media. For more information please contact Kimberley Clayton on 01473 298168, email kimberley.clayton@gotelee.co.uk.