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Hospitality Operators: Beware of (Anti)Social Media

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Hospitality Operators: Beware of (Anti)Social Media

Hospitality Operators: Beware of (Anti)Social Media
January 24
10:50 2017

Alan Delaney low res cropMost catering and leisure businesses are aware of the power of social media when it comes to promoting their business, but it can be an even more formidable force when things go wrong.

Alan Delaney looks at the case of the dismissal of a well-known TV personality for his posting of allegedly racially offensive tweets…

What happened?

Coronation Street actor Marc Anwar (pictured right), a Pakistan-born actor who played Sharif Nazir on the ITV soap, posted a series of foul-mouthed tweets regarding India and was subsequently dismissed by the broadcaster.Marc Anwar

How does this relate to Scottish hospitality operators?

The incident brings to the fore the challenges faced by organisations of all sizes when balancing employees’ rights of privacy and freedom of expression against their employer’s need to protect their business interests and reputation. Given the particular facts of Anwar’s situation – a TV personality using racially offensive language on a public platform – the course of action taken by ITV is not surprising. But it raises wider questions of whether dismissal would be a proportionate response where the content of an employee’s social media is not so easily traced back to the employer, or is not as obviously damaging to an employer’s reputation.=

Is it possible to take action against a staff member if their employer deems as objectionable their tweets or Facebook updates?

It is a fine line for employers to attempt to balance their employees’ rights to privacy and freedom of expression – as enshrined in Article 8 and Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights – with protecting the reputation of a business. Although reluctant to issue general guidance due to the fact-sensitive nature of social media cases, the Employment Appeal Tribunal has held that an employee’s tweets could not be considered private. It has also said that the right to freedom of expression is relevant, but an employer’s interference with that right by taking disciplinary action can be justified where there is a risk of damage to its business.

However, in order to avoid finding themselves at Tribunal, employers should proceed with caution; disciplinary sanctions must be proportionate and applied consistently.

So, how can a business protect itself against reputational damage through the misuse of social media?

As ever, prevention is better than cure, particularly in the hospitality industry where friendliness and good service is crucial. They may not be soap stars, but employees in many Scottish catering businesses are likely to know other staff and customers socially, so social media misconduct should be seen to be taken seriously.

It is a good idea for food and drink businesses to have policies in place to remind staff that anything posted on social media has the potential to become public knowledge. Businesses may also wish to consider placing restrictions on employees referencing their place of work and/or employer on social media platforms. And in order to preserve morale, dignity-at- work and anti-bullying policies should cross-reference the rules on the use of social media to help underline the fact that cyber-bullying and derogatory comments made about colleagues online will not be tolerated.

In all cases, a robust approach by operators will help prevent the worst and most damaging situations for both employer and employee.

Alan Delaney is a director in the Employment, Pensions and Immigration practice with Maclay Murray & Spens LLP, and is a member of the firm’s Food and Drink team.

www.mms.co.uk

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Catering Scotland

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