Having clear guidelines and rules about clear professional boundaries between staff and pupils, parents and the wider public, has always been of paramount importance to Schools.
Schools should already be very mindful that an employee simply revealing their name or a visual image of themselves could be sufficient to identify them as working for the School. Similarly, staff already know to respect the reputation of the School and the privacy and feelings of others.
Nevertheless, the use of social media is so prevalent that is still worth highlighting to your staff that they need to take care when using Social Media that they don’t breach any of your other policies.
Context can be everything. A Kitchen Assistant posting “I’m fed up with work and am going to look for another job” on their Facebook page, which is only visible to their immediate friends and family, may not really affect you at all. It would obviously be different however if one of your senior staff posted that same comment, with their name given, under an article about the School on the website of a national newspaper.
You should consider the following:
- Are the comments direct, specific, and/or damaging enough to argue that they bring you into disrepute?
- If so, with whom, and is there tangible evidence (e.g. a complaint, or a direct response from an offended party, or press coverage) to show any damage having been done by the comments?
- Does the site clearly identify who they are and where they work?
- Who can access their account, site or page (i.e. what are the “privacy settings”)?
- How likely is it that it could be happened upon at random, or by using general search terms such as their name or the name of the school? (For instance, were members of the public to use a search engine to look up information about your school, how likely is it that they would actually come across the employee’s content?)
- What was their intent when they made the comments?
- Were they aware of how the comments may be received, and by whom?
- What actual consequences could this have for the School?
Serious enough incidents of the following examples could potentially, dependent on the specific circumstances (upon which advice should always be taken) constitute gross misconduct:
- Revealing confidential information. This might include revealing information relating to parents or pupils, business plans, policies, staff, financial information or internal discussions;
- Criticising, disparaging or embarrassing the school, its pupils, parents or its staff in a public forum (including any social media website);
- Using social media to harass or bully other staff in any way;
- Using social media to unlawfully discriminate against other staff or third parties;
- Disclosing the personal information of others online.
For further clarification of this or any other matter relating to employment law in schools or other education establishments, clients should call the specialist Education Team on 0844 892 2810.