I love Facebook and use my Facebook account for a lot of my socialising, particularly since a lot of my friends are spread out geographically – it’s a lot easier to keep in touch than by phone. Unfortunately I got carried away in one post and made a few adverse remarks about my boss. He has now got hold of it and plans to hold a disciplinary hearing with me. Can he do that?
Unfortunately he can. Remarks made on Facebook are really no different from other public remarks made about your employer. If the remarks may bring the employer into disrepute, then they can legitimately take action against you. Saying that, the level of sanction they can impose will depend on what is reasonable. Do their employment policies refer to use of social networking sites and make it clear that you can be disciplined for putting adverse comments on these? If not, you could use that to argue that you were not aware that your actions would result in disciplinary action being taken and that might make them wary about how severe their sanction is. If I were you, I would apologise profusely and give assurances that this won’t happen again. If the worst happens and they dismiss you, an Employment Tribunal will take any apology into account in determining what sanction was appropriate and will regard you as having done the right thing.
One of our employees is on long-term sickness absence with stress. We are working with her to try to get her back to work as soon as possible and have offered to implement a number of steps which she has resisted. Last week she posted photos on her Bebo page showing her at a music festival apparently having a great time. We feel that she is taking advantage. What should we do?
You need to make sure that you aren’t jumping to conclusions, but make sure that you discuss this with her. If you reached the conclusion that her “stress” wasn’t as serious as she was making out, based on this alone, you would be on thin ice. Many health professionals would regard social activities as something to be encouraged for those suffering from stress. Just because the employee is not fit for work doesn’t mean that they aren’t fit for other things. Make sure that you don’t place too much importance on this, but speak to the employee, take advice from an Occupational Health expert and do as much as you can to encourage and facilitate her return to work. If she still resists, then you can take a view on whether or not she is ever going to be able to fulfil her role again and if your view is that she is not going to be able to do so within a reasonable time, you can take steps to terminate her employment. Make sure you do so following a fair procedure though.
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