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Outcry after British Airways tightens grip on social media

British Airways (BA) has issued a new social media policy that staff have claimed will see them punished for sharing their work.

Aviation fans learned of the policy when pilot Dave Wallsworth tweeted he would no longer be allowed to post the in-cabin photos that have found him fame.

Sharing the post to his 111,000 followers, the post has now been seen by more than 1.5 million people, with many criticising the move as short-sighted.

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The new policy, seen by HR magazine, forbids employees from posting on social media, or capturing content when “professionally engaged” in their job, such as serving customers on board.

Users on aviation industry forum FlyerTalk speculated that the decision had come after consistent breaches of propriety on staff members’ social media. 

One of the posts detailed on the forum said a TikTok video had been posted showing a female cabin crew member’s underwear as part of a ‘Get Ready With Me’ video.

One BA insider posted: “Cabin crew in their pants on an internet platform is nothing new, I dare say, and actually the least shocking of more recent goings on in the past six-to-eight months.

“I’m not surprised today has come, in fact I’m almost amazed it took this long.” 

Matt Jenkin, employment partner at law firm Moorcrofts, told HR magazine the new policy appeared largely driven by a desire to protect BA’s brand.

He said: “For businesses such as BA, the brand is of course of huge value, such that they are looking at putting in place rules, including employees' personal use of social media, to protect that brand. 

“Indeed, it is probably something that more employers should consider.”

Employees would struggle to justify any argument the policy breached their employment rights, he added.

“As long as those restrictions are reasonable and based on objective concerns, an employee breaching the policy is likely to find themselves subject to disciplinary action, which they will have difficulty challenging.”

In a written statement, BA said it has not stopped colleagues from posting on social media but instead given clarity about what’s appropriate and when

It said: “For example, when our colleagues are flying an aircraft, they’re responsible for the safety of everyone on board. It’s not unreasonable to ask them to wait until their break to take photos."

Mark Grimley, chief people officer for the Government of Jersey, argued the move was disproportionate and suggested it might demotivate BA staff: “They have a lot of engaged and proud crew and colleagues and they have stopped them promoting their work through a new policy that employees claim will see them disciplined for sharing their work.”