Can You Dismiss Someone for using Facebook Too Much at Work?

Facebook is becoming an increasingly common way to stay in touch with friends. But what do you do if your staff spend too much time on it at work?

If you have an employee who spends too much time on Facebook, there are two main issues that may arise:-

  • Drain on productivity – if your staff are using Facebook for personal use, they are not working.  This will inevitably lead to a reduction of productivity;
  • Your company could get into trouble – if your staff use Facebook to download offensive material, your company may be liable for harassment, particularly if the employee shares it with others during work time.  Similarly, your company may be held responsible if a member of staff makes defamatory remarks on Facebook during work time.

Make sure you have a written policy on use of Facebook and other social media

You will have difficulty justifying a dismissal for using Facebook unless you have a written policy.  This should make clear that a dismissal is likely to result from any breach of the policy.

The policy ought to cover issues such as:

  • Facebook and other social media should be used for business use only (although occasional personal use may be acceptable);
  • Use of computers may be monitored;
  • Certain types of Facebook posts, such as pornography or racist jokes will always be unacceptable.

When will a dismissal be justified?

In the early days of the internet (long before Facebook!), IBM dismissed a member of staff for downloading and printing off pornographic material. Most people would expect that to be fair. However, an Employment Tribunal decided it was unfair because IBM did not have a clear company policy on the subject.

In the same way, if you want to dismiss someone for Facebook misuse, a Tribunal is likely to say it’s unfair where there is no clear policy prohibiting the conduct.

Whatever disciplinary action you take, make sure you follow the ACAS Code of Conduct.

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