PR panic | 'Creepy boss' post gets worker wrongly sacked - should HR police social media?

'Creepy boss' post gets worker wrongly sacked - should HR police social media?

The perilous relationship between workplaces and their employees’ social media use has been thrust into the spotlight once again, after a worker was wrongly sacked for sharing a Facebook post criticising her boss.

According to an employment tribunal, Damaris Trench was dismissed from Lincolnshire pub Trebles after sharing a post which described boss Himesh Patel as “creepy” and accused him of inappropriate behaviour towards female customers.

The original post was created by Trench’s boyfriend, who was also a former employee of the business, the tribunal heard.

Despite deleting the post roughly an hour after sharing it, bosses were made aware of the matter and Trench, who had worked at Trebles for two tears, was fired on the grounds of gross misconduct.

However, an employment tribunal found that the punishment was too severe, and that Trench had been unfairly dismissed without a proper investigation or right to appeal.

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The employment tribunal concluded: “She took the Facebook post down very quickly and apologised for it. She did not write the post and was not acting vindictively or deliberately to damage the [bar’s] interests. She made a mistake, for which she paid.”

Trench was awarded more than £3,000 to compensate for lost earnings by the employment panel.

According to regional news outlet Lincolnshire Live, a spokesperson for Performance Bar, which owns the venue, said: “Trebles has never had any complaints or legal action brought by any of its staff and they are very disappointed that Ms Trench and her partner took the action they did.

“The employment tribunal found against most of Miss Trench’s case and she succeeded on only a very narrow point. Her claim started out at over £20k and the tribunal will be considering submissions about wasted costs in a claim that ended up being worth £3k. Trebles continues to be a happy and inclusive venue."

Staff social media use has caused damage for half of firms

The personal social media use of employees is becoming a growing area of concern for HR, and recent research revealed that more than half of employers (51%) admit to having experienced bad publicity and/or staff-related issues due to a lack of social media screening. More than a third don’t have a social media policy in place at all.

Research has found that, overall, businesses strongly recognise the potential damage social media behaviour can have on their reputation (72%) - and yet less than two-thirds (64%) have a specific employment policy providing guidelines on how their workforce should behave online.

The findings were part of a new study conducted by Vero, which looked into the issues and challenges businesses are facing when it comes to the recruitment and retention of new skills in the post-pandemic world.

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Vero's Changing Face of Background Screening whitepaper asked almost 300 businesses about their attitudes towards, and current levels of engagement in, pre-employment screening practices.

The study also found a similar proportion (58%) of businesses say they are monitoring the social media activity of their workforce online and 61% admit they are seeing more employees behaving inappropriately online.

Rupert Emson, CEO at Vero, said: “We know from our work with business clients across the globe that the popularity of pre-employment social media screening, as a means of gaining a deeper understanding of a candidate on how they conduct themselves in everyday life, is most certainly on the rise.

“What the research shows us, however, is that many organisations still aren’t responding quickly enough to ongoing developments within the world of social media, which continues to be a rapidly progressive and transformational form of human interaction.”

“A majority of employers today do agree that comprehensive social media screening results in better quality hires, and are generally averse to recruiting candidates displaying adverse behaviour during the social media screening process,” Emson continued.

“Unfortunately, this still isn’t resulting in the checking of social media activity becoming a routine part of the recruitment process on a wide-scale basis, or indeed a core part of a candidate’s subsequent employment experience in general either.”

Vero is the largest UK-based supplier of outsourced screening services, providing expert knowledge and world-class employment screening services for clients in 200+ countries; principally supporting Financial Services, Banking, Legal, Professional Services and Tech, amongst others.

Its whitepaper has also seen that just 26% of businesses admit to regularly using social media background screening checks, even though 67% agree it results in better quality hires, and 66% claiming they would decline to recruit a candidate if something adverse was uncovered in the process.

It also found that a majority of businesses today do agree background screening in general is a fundamental part of how an organisation is perceived by others, but only three in five are routinely screening 75% or more of their workforce and/or suppliers overall.

Emson said: “Social media is just one of the many areas of a person’s life that have become more remote from would-be employers in the post-pandemic working world, while the need for speed, flexibility and most importantly security within the recruitment process has in many ways never been greater.

“And, while it’s true employers across the board are recognising the increasing importance of screening potential employees, our findings also show that a significant proportion of organisations are still yet to fully recognise the potential of employment screening in supporting their wider business goals.”

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Comments (1)

  • Sara-Louise
    Tue, 11 Oct 2022 12:19pm BST
    Honestly, I think that it's a step too far for potential and current employers to be policing your social media. As a left-wing, queer, disabled feminist, I have a lot of views that potential employers might take exception to, but as I don't have my workplace listed in my social media profiles, I don't see how it has anything to do with my work or my employer. Just another way for unscrupulous organisations to only hire people who will follow orders without question and to exert control over staff, even during the hours they aren't paying them.

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