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Mark Emery of Withy King

Employers should be aware of social media risks

The recent resignation of Paris Brown, the former youth commissioner for Kent, due to offensive comments made on Twitter reignited the social media debate and highlighted the potential risks it can pose for both employees and employers.

Employers should be aware of the potential risks the use of social media can bring.

As seen in the case of Paris Brown, an offensive comment can leave an employee open to legal liability and damage could be incurred to a company’s reputation.

Employers may wish to check a prospective employee’s social media posts as part of their recruitment process.

It’s important that your social media policy covers not only issues which may directly impact on the company (i.e. do not abuse your employer online) but wider issues of offensive online behaviour which may cause the company to be brought into disrepute.

This is illustrated by Paul Chambers v DPP in which a flippant tweet threatening to blow up an airport was found to be a menacing message. This was later overturned by the High Court but Paul Chambers had already lost his job as a financial manager. 

We have been advising our clients to ensure that their social media policy is up to date, particularly as new forms of online communication evolve. 

When creating and implementing a social media policy you may wish to consider the following:

  • What is the company’s attitude to the personal use of social media?

  • Does the company encourage the use of social media for marketing and business development purposes?

  • If so, what are the consequences for an employee who posts inappropriate comments or uses derogatory language?
How will the social media policy be monitored?

  • Is additional training for staff required on the benefits and pitfalls of social media?

If you want to know more about the social media in the workplace, or have questions about any other aspect of employment law, please get in touch with our employment law team