Social networking is now a part of everyday life, but it can catch out those employers who haven’t updated their policies and procedures to incorporate it. One recent case that the Business Support Helpline advised on involved a nursery manager who had broken the rules on the expected standards of behaviour.
The helpline received a call from a nursery owner who was concerned with an issue an employee had brought to her attention. The employee had informed her that she had seen some comments made on the nursery manager’s Twitter feed that had referenced former employees in conjunction with the company name. The comments had been unflattering and suggested that the nursery was better off without them. Unfortunately as the manager’s profile was public anyone could see the comments. In fact, the employee said that she had only looked at them as one of the parents had told her about it. Of course the nursery owner was very concerned about the potential impact it would have on both new and existing parents’ view of the nursery and was keen to take some action with the manager.
After consulting the helpline it became evident that while the owner felt there was a general understanding of the staff about what they could and couldn’t do on social media, there was no formalised social media policy. The advice was to investigate with the employee to find out why they had decided to make the comments in such a public forum and what their understanding of the rules in this area was.
When explaining her actions the manager said she had made the comments after a particularly hard day at work and consuming a couple of glasses of wine. The manager was aware that there were some informal expectations about her social media usage but said she felt that because it was done outside of work she wouldn’t face disciplinary action. However she was extremely remorseful and agreed that there was a potential for this to reflect negatively on the nursery.
Safeguarding future social media issues
After the investigation meeting with the Manager, the owner felt more at ease with the situation. The Manager had deleted all the comments from Twitter at the meeting (and in fact closed her account as she felt so awful about the situation). The owner reflected on the fact that the Manager had been there for a number of years and had been a model employee up to this incident. It was clear that the expectations about outside social media use and the impact on the business had not been formally communicated to the employees, especially as the Manager herself hadn’t been aware of them. It was decided that no formal action would be taken at this time but that a letter outlining the concerns and the fact that should it happen again it would be treated as Gross Misconduct.
In addition it was advised that the nursery have a formalised social media use policy with any disciplinary consequences outlined which was clearly and formally communicated to all of the staff.
To ensure that you don’t fall foul of the social media world as an employer, be clear about your rules as to it’s usage in and outside of the business and make sure this is in writing and provided to all your employees and incorporate it into the company’s disciplinary procedure.
The Croner-i Early Years Toolkit for dot2dot provides further information and guidance on this topic including a model policy. All dot2dot customers can access this by visiting https://d2d.loginservice.co.uk/ and entering your registered email and password. If you experience any problems or are not yet a dot2dot customer and would be interested in a trial of this fantastic facility then please do not hesitate to contact the dot2dot team on 01204 570 390 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Don’t forget dot 2 dot members also have access to Croner’s team of employment law experts through their Helpline to assist you with this subject or any other HR issue. Simply call them on 0844 561 8111. Calls cost 7p per minute plus your telephone company’s access charge.