The use of social networking sites


19 August, 2007

The recent dismissal of an Argos employee for his use of the popular website "Facebook" highlights the need for both employees and employers to carefully consider the use of the website and others like it. Tom Beech was sacked after setting up a group on the social networking website criticising his employers. Argos dismissed the employee for gross misconduct. The incident highlights important issues for both employees and employers.

Employees should consider who else might see comments and pictures they post on websites of this nature. It may seem harmless to put pictures of your latest wild night out on the website or to post a rant about everything you hate about your job. However, the question should be asked as to whether it is so harmless if your boss or a potential future employer sees what you have posted? Employees should always think carefully before posting personal information on any internet site as they never know who may end up looking at the website and a seemingly harmless comment could have serious consequences. Possible consequences are that the employee may be subject to disciplinary proceedings at work, may be dismissed from your current job, harm your future career prospects and even be sued for harming a person's or business's reputation.

Employers have further issues to consider. Firstly employers should consider what they would do if an employee posted negative or even libellous comments on a website that may be seen by their business associates. This could cause extensive damage to the reputation of a business. For this reason, businesses should consider whether their current employee contracts contain appropriate provisions to deal with such conduct. If an employer wants to protect their business from such conduct, the contracts should make clear that bringing the business into disrepute is gross misconduct for which the employee could be dismissed.

The second issue for employers to consider is whether their employees are looking at Facebook and other popular websites during work time and if the use of such websites is harming their business. If employers are concerned about their employee's use of the internet then they should ensure that they have sufficient policies in place to govern the use of the internet by employees and that these have been provided to all employees so that they are aware of the potential consequences of any breach they may commit.

The Employment Department at Forbes Solicitors regularly deals with these issues including the preparation of contracts and other documents covering the issues raised by incidents of this nature. If employers have concerns about these or any other employment issues they can contact Ruth Coffey in the Employment Department at Forbes Solicitors on 01254 222399 or email Ruth Rule-Mullen


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