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Apr 16

Posted by
Jennie Hussey

Social Media (Part 4) - Cases

Over the past number of weeks we have posted a series of blogs on social media and the impact of certain areas for employers and the workplace. We’ll turn now to social media related cases that are coming through the courts and consider the decisions passed down

Fairness of Dismissal depends on circumstances:

  • Case One = Unfair Dismissal

An employee was dismissed for posting insulting comments on Facebook regarding colleagues. The dismissal was held to be unfair on the basis that the comments were relatively minor, were made outside working hours and did not name colleagues specifically. Although a UK case it is a good indication of the thought process likely to be followed in Ireland. Whitham -v- Club 24 t/a Ventura

  • Case Two = Fair Dismissal

In this case the employee had posted derogatory comments on Facebook regarding her employer. A key factor in the Irish EAT's decision that this was a fair dismissal was the fact that the employer was specifically named in the posts. O'Mahoney -v- PJF Insurances

The Importance of Robust Social Media Policies

In this case the employee was held to have been fairly dismissed for posting derogatory comments regarding customers on Facebook. The staff handbook expressly stated that acts committed outside work that bring the employer into disrepute would constitute misconduct and that the company reserved the right to take disciplinary action. Preece -v- Wetherspoons

The Importance of Consistently Applying a Social Media Policy

The employee was dismissed for forwarding pornographic material. He maintained he was only forwarding material passed onto him by others in the company, who had not been dismissed and he only engaged in this activity to disguise his homosexuality. Through the EAT he won reinstatement. The respondent appealed the decision, firstly through the Circuit Court and then in the High Court. The High Court upheld the decision and awarded compensation of arrears of wages, for a variety of reasons, one being the fact the employer was aware that sending inappropriate emails was a rising trend but had not implemented a detailed social media policy. It concluded that the bank ought to have notified all employees of the issue with sending such emails and the likely sanctions that could follow, up to and including dismissal, particularly if a zero tolerance policy was to apply. Reilly -v- Bank of Ireland

BrightPay - Payroll Software

Bright Contracts - Employment Contracts and Handbooks

Posted in Employee Handbook, Social Media

Jan 16

Posted by
Laura Murphy

Accessing employee emails, what you need to know.

As an employer you have the right to monitor your employees’ work phone calls, emails and internet access on company devices. This was reaffirmed recently in a case heard by the European Court of Human Rights (Barbulescu v Romania). In reaching their decision, the Court was heavily influenced by the company’s internal policies, banning the use of company property for personal purposes and informing all employees that surveillance would take place.

What does this case mean for employers?

  • Comprehensive Internet Policies: it is a must for employers to have internet usage policies in place. These policies should clearly state the rules on how employees should use the internet, as well as how monitoring is conducted. All policies should be clearly communicated to staff. 
  • Regular Reviews: the world of communication is fast moving; company policies should be regularly reviewed to take account of this and tailored to meet the needs of individual organisations.
  • Monitoring: monitoring of email and internet usage should never be done covertly. In order to avoid a culture of mistrust in the workplace, monitoring should be done cautiously, ideally only where an employer can show that they had specific reasons for doing so e.g. as part of a disciplinary investigation. 
  • Personal Equipment: Whilst monitoring can be done on work devices employers are not permitted to monitor an employee’s own personal device. In some workplaces the use of personal equipment can be disruptive and often a health and safety issue. In managing this issue employers are advised to consider separate policies outlining when such equipment may be used. 

BrightPay - Payroll Software

Bright Contracts - Employment Contracts and Handbooks

Posted in Social Media, Staff Handbook

Oct 13

Posted by
Laura Murphy

Why do you need a social media policy?

Social media has shifted workplace dynamics, offering limitless commercial potential, including opportunities to increase client base, branding advertising and recruitment. Social media has made historically 9-5 businesses accessible 24/7.

However, it is not without risk! The instant access and availability of social media has blurred the lines between “personal” and “professional” lives.

What are the Risks?

Risks associated with poorly managed social media use can include:

  • Decreased productivity: a recent survey by William Fry Solicitors found that, on average, employees spend 56 minutes per working day on social media sites. 
  • Reputational damage: negative comments, photos, videos can very quickly become viral, having detrimental effects on a business. Have you seen the photo of the Burger King employee lying on a pile of burger buns, or the infamous Taco Bell or Domino’s Pizza photos?!
  • Increased risk of cyberbullying and harassment: in a recent case two workers in a mobile phone shop who took their manager’s phone, accessed his Facebook page, posting inappropriate comments. Not only was this a form of bullying, but the Company was also found liable as the comments were posted in the course of employment.
  • Leakage of confidential Company information: if it’s digital, it’s public!

What should Employers do?

Employers need to consider the issues social media raises in their workplace and put measures in place to regulate its use and to combat risks. Key to this is to have a comprehensive Social Media Policy in place. The policy should give clear guidelines on what is considered as appropriate and inappropriate behaviour on social media, and be clearly communicated across the entire workforce.

BrightPay - Payroll Software

Bright Contracts - Employment Contracts and Handbooks

Posted in Company handbook, Employee Handbook, Social Media