Whilst this was a relatively innocuous tweet in itself, it sparked a backlash of Twitter comments from Cumberbatch’s mainly female fans; following which Roberts made various further offensive comments on Twitter – which were indignantly forwarded by the young women he was attacking to his employer. His tweets were ugly in their tone, sexist, racist and used extreme swear language best described as “colourful” (#nottoberepeatedoversundaylunch). In response the employer proposed to take Roberts to a disciplinary hearing but, when faced with this process, he resigned before action could be taken. Roberts has since argued that his tweets were his own, sent from his personal account and in his own time and thus he can say what he likes. He accused the RUT of suppressing his freedom of speech and claimed he was not attacking the company he worked for – and so should have had the right to say what he wanted. Read more about social media:
The Cumberbatch Hamlet madness – not my cup of tea – I don’t think the ‘fans’ understand the concept of Theatre— Tim.A.Roberts (@Tim_A_Roberts) August 7, 2015
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So what can employers do?Used effectively social media is an invaluable tool that can be used by employees to reach clients and potential new business contacts and to communicate with them. Savvy employers should, however, ensure that they have a clear and robust social media policy in place – making sure that their employees are aware of the policy and that managers are trained in the monitoring and consistent implementation of that policy. A social media policy should deal with the use of all forms of social media including, for example, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google +, Instagram, Vine, Tumblr, and blogs. The policy can, however, be tailored to the sites used by particular employees in particular sectors or industries. The policy should clearly set out the standards of behaviour and the types of posts and communications which are not acceptable when using social media, making clear that this applies to personal postings and applies regardless of whether the communication is made during work hours or not. Employers will want the ability to take swift and decisive action, potentially dismissal, for an employees’ inappropriate comments and having a policy in place, which employees are aware of, is key to this. Emma Hamnett is employment law partner at Clarke Willmott.
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