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Disciplining for misuse of social media

16th May 2013

We are seeing a sharp rise in calls about social media issues,misuse of social media so we have put together a quick guide of things to think about if you are considering disciplining employees for misuse of social media.

Do you have a social media policy in place?

Social media policies are the employer’s first line of defence when it comes to disciplining employees for using social media inappropriately. If you do not currently have a social media policy, consider introducing one. We will be looking at social media policies in more depth in our next ezine.

Did the employee make the tweet, post or comment in work time or using work equipment?

If so, you may be able to discipline him or her for misuse of work equipment or for acting inappropriately in the workplace. Exactly what you can do will depend on your policies and what is normal in your workplace, as well as how other similar cases have been handled.

Was the comment about your organisation, or looks like it was made on behalf of your organisation?

If an employee is bringing your organisation into disrepute, you may be able to discipline them. But you need to be able to show that any comment is serious enough to cause harm to the business.

Was the comment about another employee or has it caused problems in the workplace?

You have a duty of care towards all your employees. If social media is being used to bully or harass you may be able to discipline the employee. If the comment or tweet is causing issues in the workplace you may need to address it and may be able to discipline.

Does the comment bring into question the employee’s ability to do their job?

If the comment raises concerns about the employee’s capability then you may be able to deal with it under a capability procedure, or as part of their ongoing supervision.

Does the comment show that the employee has behaved inappropriately at work?

Comments (or more often, pictures) which show employees behaving inappropriately at work should be investigated. If there has been professional misconduct it is usually possible to discipline employees.

What next?

At the moment the law is treading a careful line between protecting employee's freedom and the right of an employer to protect the business. Currently there are no hard and fast rules as to when it is appropriate to discipline an employee for misuse of social media and you will need to look at each case very carefully, taking all the relevant factors into consideration. We will be looking in more detail at how to do this in a future ezine.

In the meantime if you have any questions about social media you can call us on 0870 0434284.

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