When private becomes public

As a student I attended a Liberal Society meeting where the Chief Constable of Durham was speaking. There were barely a dozen of us there, including me and the Chief Constable.

During the course of the talk he indicated that, if it were left to him, he would have shot the Great Train robbers. It was no more than a 5 second “sound-bite” but a reporter in the scant audience noted it.

The following morning “Chief Constable says shoot train robbers” was all over the national papers and on all the major news programmes.

The salutary lesson here is that once a personal view is expressed in public (however small the public) it ceases to be private. Employers would be advised not to act too hastily when employees express personal views on Facebook but if those personal views reflect adversely on them as an organisation or as employers they should consider action. Important matters to consider are:

• Do you have a social networking policy that your employees see?

• Do employees understand that if they place material on social media that it might legitimately come to your attention?

• Do they realise that you may take disciplinary action, including dismissal, if their views damage your reputation or your business in other ways?

• And, of course, what would be a proportionate disciplinary response to what has happened?

Tribunals have made varied decisions on employees’ expressing personal views on Facebook; quite recently they found a gross misconduct dismissal for expressing frustrations about a client’s employees to be unfair. Tread carefully!

If you don’t yet have one, a social networking policy would be a wise step.

For a social networking policy tailored to your organisation contact us

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