How to minimise the impact of social media incidents

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Summary: Social media exposes you to a variety of legal risks. In almost all cases, clear policies and communication, combined with a reasonable response to incidents when they do occur, are the key to minimising impact.

 

The 20-second summary

 

Taking a reasonable response to social media incidents when they occur is important if you are to minimise their impact. Where employment related cases are concerned, our social media case review found that having a clear policy in place helps, but companies also have to show that they have explained the policy – and the consequences of breaching it – to all employees.

Employment tribunals can take a broad view of what constitutes a reasonable response, so before you dismiss an employee over a social-media incident take care to consider the impact of the incident, and the employee’s response and previous record.

In almost all cases, clear policies and communication, combined with a reasonable response to incidents when they do occur, are the key to minimising impact.

We found that the key factors from our case review were:

  • A clear social media and/or email policy. We found that having a policy in place wasn’t enough. The policy had to be well known and well understood. And in one case having a social-media policy in place wasn’t held to be enough because the consequences of breaching the policy hadn’t been clearly explained.
  • Whether dismissal was a “reasonable response”. A tribunal will take into account a range of factors when it considers whether dismissal was a reasonable response. Factors include the employee’s previous disciplinary record, whether the employee tried to remedy the problem and apologised, and the damage (financial or reputational) that the incident may have caused.
  • A thorough disciplinary process. As ever, if a company can prove that a thorough and consistent process was followed then the dismissal is more likely to be held to be fair.

Social media exposes you to a variety of legal risks

Social media exposes you to other types of legal risk that can also have alarming cost consequences. We have reviewed the full portfolio of legal-risks in our "Social media legal-risk matrix".

This review and is part of our broader work on legal risk in general and social-media risk in particular. Click through the links below to read more:

 

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