The importance of social media policies in protecting employers
Social media can raise challenging employment issues if a member of staff makes inappropriate comments or spends time on social media when they should be working. The starting point for any potential disciplinary action is to ensure that there is a social media policy which makes it clear what the expectations are, both in terms of how any posts on social media will be considered and the use of social media while at work.
If schools have a policy in place, the key message is to follow it. If a school does not have a policy in place, then such a policy should be developed as a priority.
While various cases have been to the Employment Tribunal, legally the Courts have so far declined to give prescriptive guidance about social media. The basic law remains that a dismissal must be reasonable in all circumstances. That is, there must be a reasonable investigation, a fair process and the decision must be reasonable in all the circumstances.
However, a Tribunal will consider whether or not there was a policy in place. It will consider factors such as whether or not there were previous warnings as well as the severity of any alleged misconduct. Case law has specifically held that it is not a breach of human rights to monitor an employee's use of social media while at work. Also, private posts may be grounds for a disciplinary sanction if they are related to employment.
For more information on the importance of having a social media policy in place, Tom Stenner-Evans, Senior Associate in the Employment team has written an article, published in www.hrmagazine.co.uk on 20 August 2015.