Cast your mind back to an episode of  The One Show at the end of of last year. It’s not my normal viewing, I must admit, however whilst eating my tea I became engrossed in a story about social media misuse, and the tale of a care worker dismissed for inappropriate use.

The lady in question had worked in care for over 20 years, and looked after vulnerable adults in a care home setting.

She organised a regular music night for the residents, and on this particular night decided to post a picture, to her personal Facebook account, of a client with Down’s Syndrome singing in the karaoke.  

Her employer became aware of this post, and suspended her pending an investigation.  This lead to formal disciplinary proceedings against her and eventually her dismissal.  

She took her employer to tribunal and she won her case on a technicality: her employer gave her insufficient time to decide if she would consider a demotion over dismissal. She won £5,000 compensation at the employment tribunal.  

The reporting painted this lady as a victim ‘the photo only got 5 likes’ and I must admit, I felt my blood start to boil at this point. 

As an HR consultancy, we see numerous situations with employees regarding inappropriate use of social media.  From slagging off their employer, to bullying colleagues and pretending to be off sick when actually at the beach.  We’ve seen it all…or have we?

The reason I felt so angry about this particular case was that I, rightly or wrongly, assumed that someone in a care setting would intrinsically know that their client’s privacy should be paramount – and posting pictures of them, innocent as it may seem, I feel is an obvious breach of their privacy.  This lady was lucky in that the client’s parents were seemingly unfazed by this.  But where do we draw the line here? Is it ok for a nurse to post a picture of their patient? An undertaker to instagram a nice filtered picture of the deceased?

We live in a time where the boundaries are extremely blurred when it comes to social media, however, the consequences of an employee’s actions on social media can be catastrophic – not just for ‘business’ but to people’s lives.

So what can you do to protect your business?

  1. Get a social media policy and make sure your staff know you have one – get them to sign to say they have read and understood it.  Make sure you let them know when it is updated
  2. Educate.  People’s views on what is / isn’t appropriate is very different – don’t assume employees know what is and isn’t acceptable
  3. Deal with complaints seriously.  Ensure you have a bullying and harassment policy, and that again, your employees know about it and understand it
  4. Don’t assume people know what is right and wrong

If you would like support with this, we can supply you with a social media policy or come in and train your staff – don’t leave it to chance and damage you or your business’ reputation.