Policymakers in business must do more to stamp out cyber-bullying in the workplace, says a leading Employment and HR law specialist at Gordon Brown Law Firm LLP (GBLF).
Companies must ensure they have adequate policies in place to deal with the fallout of online incidents, according to Deb Tweedy, Head of Employment and HR law at the firm.
She said: “Online abuse is harmful and policymakers within businesses, individuals and internet companies must play their part to stamp it out. We are now seeing more cases which have involved some sort of trolling or bullying online and despite increased efforts to prosecute those who engage in online abuse, it’s clear that not enough is being done.
“Businesses are still getting used to the growth of social media policy and handling its implications. It is alarming however that many businesses still don’t have a robust social media in place.”
Deb’s comments come after Little Mix star Jesy Nelson revealed how she had been bullied online by internet trolls in a TV documentary recently.
Deb said: “As well as individuals, businesses need to be mindful that a failure to protect people from cyberbullying can leave an employer vicariously liable for their worker’s actions under the protection from Harassment Act 1997, even where no protected characteristic is held.
“The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 sets out the requirement for employers to provide a safe place of work for all workers. A failure to protect workers from cyberbullying could also render an employer liable for their worker’s actions.”
Employers wanting to stamp out cyberbullying in the workplace need to have a zero-tolerance approach to bullying, full stop, said Deb.
“A zero-tolerance of bullying has to be the starting point and this must be “live” across all areas of the business, driven down through all levels of management. Policies and procedures should be implemented consistently across the business. They should be aligned to all workplace policies e.g. email, internet and mobile phone usage; bullying and harassment; data protection; discipline and grievance; dignity and respect; and the company’s code of conduct.”
Deb added that training should also be provided to staff as to what is and isn’t permitted on social media.
She said: “Workers should be informed what would constitute misconduct and the sanctions. They are best advised to avoid expressing personal views about either the business or its colleagues. They should also be notified of the need to avoid posting derogatory or disparaging comments about the employer itself, its workers, employees, visitors or clients; whether intentional or not.
“Employers should also be mindful of the right to freedom of expression and the right to respect for private and family life (Article 8 and 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights). However, if there is a genuine belief that dismissal is necessary and within a band of reasonable responses, a tribunal will likely find such dismissal to be fair.”
To find out more about how the Employment law team at Gordon Brown Law Firm can help you, call into our offices, call us on 0191 388 1778 or visit www.gblf.co.uk