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PROSPER MAGAZINE: DIGITAL EDITION

BUSINESS VOICES

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SOCIAL MEDIA -  'FIRED' AFTER TIKTOK VIDEO POSTS

The prominence of social media in many people’s lives has resulted in a blurring of the boundaries between home and work.  In this month’s edition, we talk to Amy Brokenshire, an Associate in the employment team at Higgs and Sons Solicitors and ask what employers can do to mitigate the risks.

 

A worker has claimed that she was “dismissed” from her role without warning after posting videos on TikTok in her work uniform.

 

Lucy Skinner, who held a customer assistant role at a Co-operative store in Liverpool for more than 18 months, claimed she didn’t know that filming these videos for social media would cause problems.

Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, she said that the worst thing she did was call customers ‘Karens’ in a joking manner – a derogatory term which has been used to criticise people who are seemingly entitled.

Skinner said, "The Co-operative dismissed me without notice during a pandemic for making TikTok videos.

"So, in the month of January when everyone is skint and during the pandemic they decide to tell me and dismiss me straight away without a warning.

"The TikTok videos were of me wearing a uniform but nobody told me it wasn't allowed because I see it all the time on the platform, even NHS staff in their uniforms are making videos.

"And every retail company has people making videos with their uniform on," she added.

Elsewhere, it was reported that Skinner posted another video suggesting that managers argue with staff when they make mistakes but are more lenient to themselves if they make the same error. This has since been deleted.

The national press reported that some of her videos contained songs that featured rude language.

Skinner claimed that several staff members including management knew about her page for a period of time before she was disciplined.

"They knew I made the TikTok videos, but they never warned me about it or gave me a chance to stop making them and delete them.

"Nobody gave me a chance to stop making them because I thought I wasn’t doing anything wrong,” Skinner added.

According to the publication, management allegedly monitored her page since December 14. She was suspended a week before her dismissal but received the news of her job loss on January 19th.

In response to the story, a Spokesperson for the Co-operative told the Mirror, "We do not comment on individual cases, but offensive, abusive or derogatory social media posts will not be tolerated and are subject to disciplinary measures."

‘Exercise caution when using personal social media accounts’

Online platforms including the likes of Twitter, Instagram and TikTok have grown in popularity over the years therefore it is likely that employees will use some social media accounts.

Amy Brokenshire told Prosper, “The prominence of social media in many people’s lives has resulted in a blurring of the boundaries between home and work. This may especially be the case during the Covid-19 pandemic, with a considerable amount of people working from home, and individuals generally having much more free time on their hands to engage with social media sites, such as Tik Tok. This has the potential to present problems for employers. 

“One concern for employers is that employees will share disgruntled or negative comments on social media about them or post grievances which could be defamatory and detrimental to the employer’s reputation. Employers may also be worried about the possibility of confidential information being shared online.

“Another risk for employers in the UK is that they can be found ‘vicariously liable’ for the discriminatory actions of their employees. Under the Equality Act 2010, if an employee carries out a discriminatory act ‘in the course of their employment, their employer can be held accountable if they cannot demonstrate that they took reasonable steps to prevent the act from taking place.

 

"The danger for employers is that ‘in the course of employment’ has been interpreted by tribunals to include actions carried out outside of the workplace, and depending on the circumstances, this could include social media.” 

Amy continued, “An effective way for an employer to mitigate these risks is to have a suitable social media policy in place, in conjunction with staff training. An appropriate policy should set out what behaviour is expected of employees on social media and make it clear that any breach of the policy could result in disciplinary action. Employers should communicate the policy clearly to all staff and ensure that it is updated regularly to keep pace with social media developments. 

“As this is a fast and ever-changing area, employers should seek legal advice to ensure they have suitable policies and procedures in place, and for guidance on what action to take when responding to an incident involving social media.”

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