After an estate agent employer suspends an employee over a racist tweet after England defeat, many employers are asking, how do you manage an employee’s use of social media?

It has been widely reported that an employee of Savills Estate Agents has been suspended after it was alleged he made racist comments which circulated on Twitter following England’s defeat in the Euro 2020 final on Sunday. A disciplinary investigation is ongoing. Whilst the individual’s Twitter account was a personal account with no reference to the employer, a quick search on LinkedIn identified the individual’s employer as Savills.

Social media is here to stay. It is reported that there are 53 million social media users in the UK and many businesses have Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts. Whilst there are many benefits of social media to promote business, employers need to be mindful of how to protect their business interests and reputation at the same time, as this news story demonstrates.

The use of social media has the ability to cause damage to an employer’s reputation whilst a member of staff is at work using employer property and at home using their own equipment outside of working hours.

It is advised that all employers have a social media policy to set out clear expectations of employees when it comes to social media. Employees should sign the policy to say they have read and understood its contents. Social media policies do not need to be complex but should emphasise that employees should not say anything online that they wouldn’t say offline. It is also worth mentioning social media use outside of working hours to ensure that employees are aware that their social media posts on personal accounts outside of work can still have consequences if they are capable of affecting the reputation of their employer.

The policy should aim to ensure that staff feel secure without feeling silenced and that the employer feels confident its reputation is protected. The policy should set out behaviour that is and is not acceptable at work and be clear about what individuals can and cannot say about the company and reinforce an employee’s duty of confidentiality to their employer. The policy should refer to any other policies where appropriate such as the disciplinary and anti-bullying and harassment policy. Any applicable sanctions should be included where an employee breaches the terms of the social media policy.

A clear and specific social media policy will help businesses if a dispute arises and can be relied upon in the event of any misconduct by a member of staff. Staff should be reminded periodically of the terms of the social media policy and training should be given where appropriate. Social media policies should be reviewed annually.

If you require advice on any disciplinary investigation or the implementation or update of a social media policy, please contact Farleys’ employment law solicitors on 0845 287 0939 or contact us by email.

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