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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 50199
Experience:  Qualified Solicitor
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We have an individual who last week asked off to attend

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We have an individual who last week asked for time off to attend a hospital appointment with his wife. Initially this was turned down due to other members of staff being off due to having already booked holiday. He kicked up a fuss after it was declined and then said it was to look after the children whilst his wife went to the hospital. As we had to explanations as to why he wanted the time off we kindly asked him to bring in the appointment letters for clarification. He has done this and we are satisfied that he wishes to take the time off to look after his children and the afternoon off was granted. However, during the time that he failed to give us the full story as to why he wanted the time off the employees wife wrote something on her Facebook page which used disgusting language to describe his manager and her actions and also mentioned the company's name a couple of times. The husband (our employee) also responded and included the company which then made this visible to his work colleagues who are friends with him. One of the employees was disgusted with the posting and has shown it to the manager concerned. Needless to say we had a fuss when he asked for the time off her has now created and entirely different issue with the social media posting. the posting was made by his wife and is shown on her page if the employee (her husband) had not commented we would not have seen the disgusting comment. Where do we stand legally if we pursue this with the employee even though he did not instigate the posting ?
Hello, my name is***** am a solicitor on this site and it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. How long has he worked there for?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hes been with us since Nov 2011 - nearly 4 yrs

Whether or not an employer can take disciplinary action or even dismiss an employee as a result of their activity on social media is a tricky issue. A balance must be struck between an employee's right to private life and the employer's right to not only protect its business and reputation but also its employees. Employers should only take formal action against an employee's use of social networking websites where there are valid concerns about this having a detrimental effect on the business, including any adverse effect on other employees. Common examples can include:· Comments that can amount to bullying or harassment of other employees· Complaints about the employer that can bring the business into disrepute or affect its reputation· Serious breach of commercial confidentiality. It is also important to consider the potential readership of these comments, for example how public they were made. If the settings were private and only a limited number of people not related to the business could read them, then the seriousness of the offence may not be great. Similarly, if there was no way of identifying the employer from the comments or from your personal information, it would be difficult for the employer to argue there was damage done to its reputation. The employee may not have been the one who instigated the conversation but they were involved in it and they brought their colleagues into its readership by making comments so they would not be totally innocent. Some useful pointers in deciding the fairness of disciplinary action taken by an employer include:· The nature of the comments and how offensive they are· Whether the comments are made on a purely personal social media account· Whether privacy restrictions are in use so that only friends can see it· Whether there is anything on the employee’s profile or in any of the comments to link them to the employer· Whether the comments say anything derogatory about the employer or its customers and employees· Whether the comments are posted in an employee’s own time or in work time· Whether the employee uses his own equipment or the employer’s· Whether the disciplinary rules make it clear what sort of misuse of social media gives grounds for disciplinary action. If the comments concerned another member of staff and that person saw them or another employee took offence, disciplinary action can be justified although the punishment would need to be determined in line with established employment law principles. These would include examining the nature of the comments and how serious they were (e.g. racist, sexist or other seriously offensive comments could justify dismissal), the employee’s disciplinary record and length of service (the longer one has worked there and if their disciplinary record is clean, the more an employer should think about issuing a warning rather than dismissing). In summary, it is entirely possible for disciplinary action to be taken in the circumstances but the outcome needs to be carefully considered taking into account the nature of the comments, the context in which they were made and how they have affected the business and/or other employees. I would say in this case a warning should be the most serious outcome as a dismissal may be considered disproportionate. I trust this has answered your query. I would be grateful if you could please take a second to leave a positive rating (selecting 3, 4 or 5 starts at the top of the page). If for any reason you are unhappy with my response or if you need me to clarify anything before you go - please get back to me on here and I will assist further as best as I can. Thank you
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