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The perils of social media


There are a lot of good things about social media, the speed, the scope, the varied audience and the immediacy of communicating a message to large numbers of people and businesses around the world.

One major problem with both social media, emails and the internet is the simple fact that it is very difficult to take back or delete comments, messages or data made by individuals which may come back to cause them or others harm.

A recent employment tribunal case highlights this very issue.

Mr Smith was sacked by his employer, the British Waterways Board for gross misconduct once evidence came to light that 2 year’s previously he had posted derogatory comments about his supervisors and admitted drinking alcohol whilst on standby on his personal Facebook account.

This was despite Mr Smith having an unblemished service record and the company being aware of his misconduct for some time.

Mr Smith described his supervisors as “w******, f*****, p***** and c****” on Facebook.

The company found that Mr Smith had made derogatory comments about the company as an employer and had claimed to be drinking alcohol whilst on standby, bringing his capabilities into question and leaving the company open to condemnation in a public forum.

The company had a social media policy which prohibited any action on the internet which might embarrass or discredit the company, including defamation of third parties including posting comments on bulletin boards or chat rooms.

Despite this, the employment tribunal decided that the dismissal was unfair on the basis that the decision to dismiss Mr Smith was “outside the band of reasonable responses which a reasonable employer might have adopted”.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal disagreed and found the dismissal to be fair on the basis that it was fair to dismiss Mr Smith for his comments on Facebook alone, even though they were two years old and the employer had knowledge.


This case follows previous decisions (see and is ultimately a strong reminder to employers on the importance of having and maintaining an effective social media policy and to employees of using their brains before posting online at anytime during their employment.

It is also a reminder to employee’s that you shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds you.

It is also good news for employer’s in that a failure to respond to an employee’s earlier act of misconduct will not necessarily mean that they will lose the opportunity to take action at a later date.  It also shows that a well written and policed social media policy can have teeth and save both legal fees and protect businesses from abuse by disgruntled staff.

© OSJ Law Limited

January Employment Law Update

January Employment Law Update

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” – William Shakespeare King Henry VI Part 2.

As 2014 slowly unravels, together with most of our well intended New Year’s resolutions, it makes sense for people running businesses or managing people to update themselves on the most significant changes in employment law in order to avoid future employment litigation from disgruntled staff.

The other alternative would be to follow the advice above, although this could take some time and lead to further criminal and civil litigation and is not recommended by this lawyer…!

Employment law changes 2014: 10 things employers need to know

Personnel Today have produced a user friendly article on the top 10 things employment law changes this year that employers need to know about

Primary Source:

Muslim staff at M&S permitted to refuse to serve customers alcohol or pork

The Telegraph has reported that a policy at Marks and Spencers permits its Muslim staff to refuse to serve customers alcohol or pork. The retailer stated that it usually attempts to assign suitable roles to employees who could not handle certain items because of their religious beliefs. However, it admitted that it had breached its own internal policy by making its employees choose between their religious beliefs and their responsibilities to the retailer.

Source: The Practical Law Company

Secondary Source: M&S faces furious backlash from customers over Muslim policy, Telegraph, 22 December 2013.


Whistleblowing on the rise in UK

Research undertaken by an investigations company, Kroll, has revealed that conscience, fear and the possibility of financial rewards have encouraged whistleblowers to provide information to regulators. As a result, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) opened 72% more cases (between January and October 2013) than in the preceding 12 months, based on information provided by whistleblowers. In addition, figures obtained by Kroll show that 5,150 people contacted the FCA’s whistleblower hotline during the same period, compared with 3,813 in the previous year. Meanwhile, BIS has asked the FCA to conduct research as to whether rewards for whistleblowing work.

Primary  Source: The Practical Law Company

Secondary Source: Whistleblower tip-offs soar in the UK, Financial Times, 23 December 2013.

If you need further advice on this blog, please send an email, or call me, on my mobile 07767 166705 or 01580 712718 (local office number) or 0207152 6550 (London office number).




Major Changes in Employment Law

Employment lawyer William Addis explains how new rules regarding employment disputes are designed to cut red tape and reduce costs.

Between now and April 2014, the government is introducing major changes to the procedures and costs of bringing and defending employment claims in the UK.

Employment lawyer William Addis explains how the changes follow the coalition government’s promise to cut red tape and reduce the cost of employing and having disputes with employees in the UK.  The changes follow the recommendations of private equity pioneer Adrian Beecroft and Mr Justice Underhill in their respective reports commissioned by the government.

The changes, which will have a significant effect on both businesses and employees involved in employment disputes, are as follows:


UK launches legal challenge against new rules on bankers’ bonus cap

UK launches legal challenge against new rules on bankers’ bonus cap

On 25 September 2013, the UK launched a legal challenge with the European Court of Justice on the new EU rules capping bank bonuses. The new rules, which must be implemented by 1 January 2014, would limit bankers’ bonuses to the equivalent of their salary. The government believes that the bonus cap provisions will “undermine responsibility in the banking system”. It argues that the new rules will “lead to an increase in fixed salaries” which would result in instability in the sector. Despite lodging a legal challenge, Britain will still implement the remuneration provisions.

Consultation on zero-hours contracts to be launched this year

Consultation on zero-hours contracts to be launched this year

During the Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference 2013, Business Secretary, Vince Cable, announced his decision to launch a consultation on zero-hours contracts later this year. He stated that the consultation will “explore how to tackle any abuses, particularly around exclusivity”. This follows a review by BIS officials on the growth of the use of the contracts which highlighted four key areas of concern:

Exclusivity. Employees are not guaranteed a minimum number of hours and are prevented from working for other employers.

Transparency. There is no legal definition for zero-hours contracts and no clarity that it may cover a number of working arrangements.

 Uncertainty of earnings.

 Balance of power in employment relationship. Many employers felt that they would  be penalised if they do not accept the hours offered by the employer.

Further details and the official launch date of the consultation will be confirmed later this year.