Wondering what to do if an employee acts inappropriately on social media? Always follow your disciplinary procedures to the letter.
A recent Tribunal case about a man who was fired after seven and a half years’ employment for sharing another butcher’s ‘meat deal’ on social media has left the employer out of pocket. The employee won his case for unfair dismissal against his former employer, a small, and well-respected butcher in Wigan. He recommended a discount offer from another online fresh meat retailer to his girlfriend on Facebook.
The directors dismissed him for gross misconduct and breach of contract. They believed the ‘advertising’ was for a competitor and breaching the company’s social media policy. The tribunal heard the employer had already decided to dismiss Hayward before they brought him into a disciplinary meeting. The buisness had no formal HR function snd they hadn’t taken advice.
The employee did not receive a written or verbal formal warning. Even though he had requested one. The employee was denied a colleague or Union Rep to accompany him at the meeting. The Employers did not give a reason why his actions online were wrong. The employee was denied the right to appeal. And so, he lost confidence in his employers and did not follow up the matter further.
The tribunal also heard that the employee had been ‘pulled up’ for his use of social media before he posted the offer. But there was no warning given to him that suggested such behaviour could lead to his dismissal.
The Judges Decision
The Judge stated the employer’s suggestion it had experienced financial and reputational loss because of the Facebook post was “fanciful”. He believed the misdemeanour to be minor and awarded the claimant £6,091. This case reflects the importance of creating and following a full and fair disciplinary process. Therefore, you cannot dismiss an employee before you hold a disciplinary hearing.
Employers are able to protect their business when employees overstep the mark outside of work on social media. However, you must make sure disciplinary allegations are properly drafted to fairly reflect the misconduct. You must also show there are reasonable grounds to dismiss an employee for gross misconduct.
The employer later stated: “We would like to take this opportunity to urge other small-to-medium businesses that their HR team is doing their job properly. If they do not have an HR team, they should enlist the services of a professional HR consultancy, to protect both employer and employee.”
So, if you need advice on What to do if an Employee Acts Inappropriately on Social Media, please contact Metis HR by email.
Metis HR is a professional HR Consultancy based in the North West of England supporting clients across the country. We specialise in providing outsourced HR services to small and medium-sized businesses. Call us now on 01706 565332 to discuss how we may help you.
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