Social media can be a risky business – companies warned

A Yorkshire law firm is advising businesses to implement social media policies following a string of high profile cases where employees’ social media posts have resulted in their dismissal or damage to a company’s reputation.

Elizabeth Henry, a leading employment lawyer and Partner at law firm Last Cawthra Feather (LCF), said:

“The commercial benefits to a business of effective social media can be significant, however the risks can also be catastrophic in terms of reputational damage and breaches of confidentiality.

“Firms can also be held liable for their employees’ actions in terms of bullying and harassment on social media sites.”

Five prison officers recently hit the headlines for posting images of themselves wearing ‘we have Madeleine McCann’ t-shirts on Facebook resulting in one being dismissed and four others being disciplined.

Liz added:

“In a situation like this where an employee’s actions on social media form the basis of a disciplinary procedure, it’s vital that the company has a social media policy in place.

“A company must show a reasonable response to an employee’s actions on social media taking into account the seriousness of the employee’s actions, how many people can and do see the post and the seniority of the employee as well as the nature of the job.”

To minimise the risks associated with social media LCF is urging all businesses to implement appropriate policies and procedures.

Liz said:

“The content of a social media policy will vary according to the needs and approach of each business.

“As well as setting out guidelines for the use of social media activity on its behalf so that the business can reap the benefits of social media, it should also set out guidelines on an employee’s use of social media that could negatively impact on the business.

“No doubt the case law relating to the fairness of social media dismissals will continue to evolve as many employees fail to appreciate that their online personal life is not as personal as they think, and employers try to adapt to the world of social media so it’s essential that businesses act now and take legal advice that will safeguard their business.”

Elizabeth Henry Last Cawthra Feather1
Elizabeth Henry from Last Cawthra Feather

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