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Why tweeting about the boss can land you in hot water

Employment tribunals are quickly getting to grips with the fast-changing world of social media and have recently upheld a number of dismissals for gross misconduct relating to comments made on social networking sites or blogs. So is it possible to be sacked for venting your feelings on Facebook or Twitter?

A growing awareness of the security, data and reputational risks posed by social networking is leading more and more companies to draw up social networking policies as part of employees' contracts. Such policies set out clearly what is permissible in a blog, tweet or Facebook post, helping to reinforce the position of the employer in the event that they need to discipline a member of staff for things they have said through social media channels.

Philip Landau, employment lawyer at Landau Zefertt Weir, sees little difference between disciplining employees for badmouthing colleagues verbally and doing so through social networking sites or blogs. Writing in the Guardian's work blog, Landau states that in every contract of employment, 'there is an implied term of 'trust and confidence', combined with a further obligation not to bring your employer into disrepute, and that such implied terms override the 'where, when and how' such comments are made.' And although some cases may not be as clear cut as others, factors such as the effect of the comments on the employer's image, the exact nature of the comments and who was privy to them will all need to be taken into account when disciplining employees.

Acas provides training on the risks that social media can pose to your business as well as general training in managing all aspects of discipline and grievance. Acas also provides useful information on developing policies on social media use in the Acas social networking guide.

Visit the Acas training and business solutions area for more information.

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