POSTED: October 07 2019
Social Media: The grey area between professional and personal lives

Social Media: The grey area between professional and personal lives

With the ever increasing use of social media, advo hr looks at its impact and provides practical advice on the dos and don’ts at work.

The lines between personal and professional lives seem to be blurring. There have been some recent high profile cases in the media where the use of social media as a personal outlet, has had severe negative reactions on the person’s employment. Danny Baker, for instance, was dismissed from this role at the BBC after he sent a controversial tweet regarding the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s baby. This has prompted businesses to consider the use of social media and how it may impact their employees and their business.

Candidates be aware of past content
Think back to when you first joined social media. The content would have reflected who you were at that time, potentially before you even embarked on your career. Would you like a prospective employer to read back over the content?

During the recruitment process, employers may look at candidates’ social media posts to get an insight into the ‘real’ them before deciding to offer them the role. A rude comment, swearing, an embarrassing picture or inappropriate ‘like’ may be taken out of context or may be received in a different way than intended. At present there is no legislation that stops employers looking at social media accounts, let alone not offering a role based on what they have seen. It is vital, therefore, that people regularly review the content of their social media pages and delete anything that they are unhappy to have publically available.

Clear policies
All companies should have a social media or IT usage policy in place which details what they deem as acceptable in terms of social media at work. It should be made clear that if an employee is found in breach of the policy then disciplinary action may be taken.

The policy should explain what the employee can and cannot say about the Company, colleagues or customers. Some employers go so far as to ask employees not to list the Company on their social media pages as a place of work, say on Facebook for example and not to refer to the company name within comments. This would ensure that any comments made by the employee cannot be viewed as an extension of the Company’s views as the profiles are not associated or risk bringing the Company’s name into disrepute. The obvious exception to this would be LinkedIn where this is seen as a professional social media platform.

Employees shouldn’t be made to feel as though they are unable to use social media, rather they should understand the boundaries and ensure that they are fully considering the content before posting.

Disciplinary action
If an employee has breached a social media policy, whether that be in work time or out of work but impacts the Company negatively, the disciplinary policy should be used to investigate the matter. Sharing examples within policies of what may be considered as inappropriate should help employees to clarify the grey area between their social and professional lives.

Consideration should be given to the intent behind the post or comments and the potential consequences of these such as negative business reputation or the feelings of customers or employees.

Before proceeding to a disciplinary process, you should consider whether a comment is defamatory and whether the employee has actually posted any potentially damaging material e.g. confidential information relating to the business. A comment may well be negative or personal and one that may infer negativity if read by an independent and objective person, however it may not be considered defamatory, doesn’t give anything specific and does not state the Company name, which may not be considered as serious misconduct. We would recommend a full investigation is carried out.

Upon carrying out any investigation, you should also consider whether the evidence/post has been accessed legitimately, otherwise you could be in breach of the employee’s privacy or human rights legislation.

We would recommend you review your current policies on social media. If you are unsure if your policy is robust enough then please send this to us and advo hr will happily review this for you.


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