2nd October 2013



 Issue No.  2013/18




Like it or not social media is now part of our everyday lives.

Facebook and other social media sites are used by many (seemingly non-stop by the younger generation) as a real form of “socialising”.  They provide personal web pages, share photos, news, gossip, whether exciting or mundane. Access to the pages can be restricted to family and friends, or can be shown to everyone depending upon the settings applied.  But, a word of warning, the content you think of as restricted can often be accessed by friends of friends of friends.  In a business setting, many professionals see Social Media as key business tools and have Twitter / Facebook / Linkedin accounts and periodically ‘tweet’ some news about the organisation, its products / services etc. (Are you following Sentient on Twitter - @SentientUk)?

The Problem for Businesses

Whilst these websites provide individuals with a forum to express personal views, the problem is the false belief that what they say is confidential and between “friends”.  Some individuals make comments on their social media web pages giving opinions and / or raising issues about work, management and / or work colleagues, but fail to consider the consequences of such actions.

If an individual makes a derogatory remark about a work colleague, their employer, or a Company, on their profile, blogs’ (or ‘blawgs’ as they are also known – cringe, why are we destroying the English language), then it is possible that libel proceedings may be brought against them.  If this includes comments about customers or suppliers then you can see how serious this can become.  Such proceedings are very costly, not only for the person but the commercial impact could be huge.

Contracts of employment generally incorporate an implied term of trust and confidence, and employees have a further implied obligation not to bring their employer into disrepute. Consequently, inappropriate comments could result in the employee being disciplined, or possibly being dismissed.

Inappropriate comments, which relate to colleagues may well amount to bullying or harassment leading to grievances or constructive dismissal claims. Even though such behaviour may be argued to be outside of the workplace, if it is established that an employee has been bullying or harassing a colleague, through social media the employer should still address the issue through the disciplinary procedure.

How Do Employees Control This?

To try and prevent issues arising, an employer should have a social media policy in place and rules to ensure that employees know what is expected of them and what is and is not acceptable.   With them in place it makes it very difficult for the employee to say that they did not know their obligations when challenged.

Advice Line Examples

  • A secretary didn’t turn up on Monday morning as she wasn’t well. She told her employer that she had a stomach upset. But she commented on Facebook that she had got drunk over the weekend at a rave and was pulling a ‘sickie’. As many of her work colleagues were on Facebook it probably wasn’t surprising that knowledge of her excesses soon percolated through to her manager.  Outcome: Whilst it was correct that she wasn’t well and did have a stomach upset, the employer was able to discuss with her the importance of managing her lifestyle such that it did not impinge on work responsibilities.  As a first offence, no formal action was taken.  Repeats of course may result in formal action.
  • A worker was not happy at being told off by his boss for something he had apparently done wrong. His response was to sound-off on Facebook. Told everyone what he thought of his manager, where he could put his job, and how the worker would help him to put it there! The worker had forgotten he had asked his manager to be his 'friend' on Facebook.  Outcome: Whilst a real ‘Oops’ moment, there were clear actions that needed to be addressed here.  Consequently, he was issued with a formal warning about ceasing actions where such behaviour negatively affects work.

And now to finish on something completely different: 

National Minimum Wage Rate Increase: Reminder

The following changes will apply with effect from 1st October 2013:

  1. The rate for workers aged 21 and over will rise from £6.19 to £6.31 per hour;
  2. The rate for workers aged between 18 and 20 will rise from £4.98 to £5.03 per hour;
  3. The training rate will rise from £4.98 to £5.03 per hour;
  4. The rate for workers aged under 18 but above the compulsory school age (who are not apprentices) will rise from £3.68 to £3.72 per hour;
  5. The rate for apprentices will rise from £2.65 to £2.68 per hour; and
  6. The accommodation offset will rise from £4.82 to £4.91 per day. 





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Sentient adj ...

"capable of perception"

"capable of independent thought"


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The advice and comment in this update is not meant to be an authoritative statement of law. The articles and summaries should not be applied to any specific set of facts and circumstances without seeking further advice. Whilst every care is taken to ensure that the content is correct Sentient cannot accept responsibility for the accuracy of statements made nor the result of any actions taken by individuals after reading such.

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