Social media is an HR accident waiting to happen

The case saw an executive leave his role after an apparent dispute with his employers over his use of LinkedIn. The company started disciplinary action after which he resigned.

Stacey, an employment solicitor at Napthens, said: “We recently saw the first employment tribunal case concerning the alleged constructive unfair dismissal of an executive following a social media dispute.

“The executive had posted his CV on LinkedIn and ticked the box to register an interest in ‘career opportunities’. In his CV he detailed comments about his employer which were allegedly negative towards the company. The company started disciplinary action, following which the employee resigned.

“For some time employment experts have been warning of the problems that can arise through the use of social media in the workplace. In 2006, when the phenomenon was first emerging, the TUC described Facebook users as HR accidents waiting to happen.

Stacey urged employers to tighten up procedures on the use of social networks by staff. If not handled correctly, social media has the potential to result in discrimination or harassment, for which employers can be found responsible. It can also affect reputation, divulge confidential information or simply waste time.

“Possible solutions include blocking activity or imposing an outright ban, but this doesn’t cure the problem of out-of-hours activity for which a company may still be found responsible, and is likely to be very unpopular with staff,” she added.

“But employers should be aware of the potential benefits of social media, such as marketing and making new contacts, so it’s important to strike a balance.

“Social media is not going away, and with a few simple rules it can become a genuine business opportunity rather than a risk.

“The key is communicating to staff what is and what is not acceptable, with clear rules about accessing social media sites at work, information about what monitoring may be undertaken, and a reminder to staff about the dangers of disclosing confidential information or making derogatory or discriminatory comments.”