· Features

Hot topic: HR’s role when an employee faces scrutiny on social media, part two

Social media has given people unprecedented power to campaign against whatever they disagree with.

Social media has given people unprecedented power to campaign against whatever they disagree with. Recent examples of this escalation include Gary Lineker’s comparison of government language with that of Nazi Germany, which saw him temporarily taken off-air by the BBC.

Presenter Fiona Bruce also became the subject of a social media row after remarks she was required to read on-air about Stanley Johnson were perceived to trivialise domestic abuse. She has subsequently stepped down as an ambassador of domestic abuse charity Refuge.

If an employee faces similar scrutiny on social media though, what is HR’s role?

Social media in the workplace:

Leadership in an age of social media

Can employees be held liable for social media posts?

How to be your professional self on social media

Angela O’Connor, CEO, The HR Lounge

Staff facing online abuse as a result of their professional life should have support from their employers communicated to all staff and reinforced by managerial and HR action.

This can include training on how to report the issue, clear guidelines with examples and simple internal reporting processes that staff can use safely and privately. These should help employers identify patterns in abuse and identify risks.

It is also important to encourage peer support networks to give staff space to talk, share experiences and approaches.

If appropriate, the company can issue a statement of support for staff, so they know that they are publicly supported.


Sharokh Koussari, partner, Axiom DWFM

Companies must have an adequate protocol to deal with social media scrutiny. There must be support in terms of counselling and occupational health through the employees’ insurance plans or helplines. There should also be support from the company’s IT department or outside experts to ensure employees are protected from hacking, and help in managing passwords.

In the case of any abuse on social media, employers must assess risks regarding the employees’ physical safety. They could also take legal advice from specialist defamation lawyers to see there is possibility for a claim being filed.

Additionally, they should consider whether the matter should be reported to the police. Above all, HR teams must ensure that the employees are aware of the fact that the employer takes these issues very seriously.


Part one of this hot topic can be found here.

The full article of the above first appeared in the March/April 2023 print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk.