Facebook cash brag rightly cost job says Oxfordshire HR expert
6th December 2010
... Comments

There was a surprising amount of sympathy for the debt officer at the branch of RBS in Telford who the bank say breached a secrecy agreement when she updated her Facebook page:

I know some of my colleagues will be gutted by today's news and will be facing a lot of uncertainty in the future, but I speak for myself when I say "WoOOOOooooOooooHOoooOooOoo" it was pretty damn obvious something like this was coming; I'm neither stupid nor naive... and quote (sic) honestly it is the best news ever as far as I am concerned!

She futher commented:

"...I've just hung on by my fingertips to stick around long enough for a nice payout when they could've had me out long ago without a penny! More fool them! Haha! Xx"

So social media and HR collide yet again! RBS sacked a young lady for boasting on Facebook about her redundancy payment with the entries above. Despite the empathetic tone of the article in the Daily Mail, I am really not sure that the young lady in question has really been treated particularly badly. I am also less than convinced at her assertion that she is "neither stupid or naive" and is now going to claim unfair dismissal at tribunal!

Us oldies go blue in the face telling the young ones that everything on the internet is in the public domain and that you shouldn’t post anything about anyone that you wouldn’t feel comfortable about saying to their face. In this case, would she have honestly gone to her boss and said the same things in person? “Ha ha boss, you could have got rid of me for a lot less?” Definitely not, because she would know that it would only get her in trouble. So why post on Facebook when she is friends with colleagues from the bank? Other cases have proven that reading Facebook pages is not an “invasion of privacy”. Particularly if you are a friend of the postee you can read what is posted, and as in “real life” you never know who that “friend” is going to tell about what you told them...

Why would she get into trouble anyway? Doesn’t the Equality Act let us now talk about what we are paid without fear of repercussions? Unfortunately not! The Equality Act lets employees talk about their pay if the aim is of ensuring equal pay for equal work. Redundancy doesn’t come under that banner. So any pay secrecy clauses that she has in her contract would still be binding. So chatting on Facebook about redundancy payments is breach of contract, and according to the bank rules, gross misconduct.

What bugs me though is the amount of money that this young lady was being offered. The statutory pay out that most small business employees can look to is a maximum of ca. £380 per year of service. Even with 6 years service, she should have been offered about £2280. Instead the figure of £6000 is mentioned. Why are the banks, that we own, and have lost all our money, paying their employees, some of whom lost the money, so much in redundancy payments?  Not as bad as the civil service, but getting there!

So I think the bank was right to sack her for gross misconduct and not right for the amount of money it is going to pay all its ex-employees. And the oldie maxim continues to be true: Facebook and things posted on the internet are not private, and may come back to punish you! In this case it cost her £6000 – just for not keeping her (internet) mouth shut.

For no-nonsense HR advice do contact Gap HR and you can also read my take on The Equality Act in an earlier blog post.

About the Author

Carolyne W

Member since: 30th November 2010

Carolyne has practical answers to real problems in small businesses that you can apply immediately. With her strong commercial background, Carolyne is passionate about giving employers the knowledge and...

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