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February 28, 2020
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Why your business needs a thorough social media policy

TV presenter Alastair Stewart recently resigned over ‘errors of judgement’ on Twitter. The ITV stalwart had tweeted an obscure quote from the Shakespeare play Measure for Measure in which he referred to a black man as an ‘ape’. 

This is just one case that clearly demonstrates the risks of social media for businesses. There is no doubt social media has revolutionised the way people communicate. And with people increasingly creating and sharing content online, the nature of that communication has changed too. 

However, as people use social media both inside and outside of the workplace, this can present a unique set of challenges for employers and places greater importance on businesses adopting social media policies.

The way in which employees use social media carries risk for any business.  These risks include reputational damage, employees posting defamatory or discriminatory work-related comments for which their employer is potentially liable, the disclosure of confidential information – which could include commercially sensitive information belonging to the business – and infringement of third-party intellectual property rights. So it is imperative for businesses to put effective social media policies in place. 

The Alastair Stewart incident is just one of many high-profile cases reiterating the importance of ensuring a social media policy is well thought through. For example, the case of Crisp v Apple Retail UK saw an Apple employee dismissed for posting several negative status updates on Facebook concerning the company and its products. Mr Crisps’ subsequent dismissal was found to be fair on the basis that Apple’s policy had been clear on the consequences of social media misuse.

In contrast to the Apple case, an employment tribunal found that an Asda employee posting she’d be “happy to hit customers on the back of the head with a pick-axe” were not enough to warrant dismissal, as one of the factors was Asda’s policy. The Walters v Asda Stores case highlighted the importance of clearly setting out the consequences of posting harmful comments in a social media policy, especially those types of behaviours for which an employee could be dismissed. 

Similarly, in 2010 a pub manager who had been on the receiving end of verbally abusive comments from customers, later posted about these on Facebook. Because Wetherspoons had a clear policy on the consequences of inappropriate comments posted on social media, dismissal of the pub manager in the Preece v JD Wetherspoons case was found to be fair. 

While the outcome of any case depends on the facts, the content of a social media policy will be important if a business has to take action and enforce this. The types of clauses that should be mentioned include: rules about accessing social media sites while at work; information about any monitoring of employees’ use of social media in or outside the workplace; an outline of any prohibited use of social media; guidelines for employees required to use social media for business; and the details on the consequences of breaching the policy.

In today’s ever-changing landscape, where employees use of social media outside of work can give rise to risks, it is important to implement a social media policy tailored to the specific needs of a business. However, it doesn’t stop there – companies must also take steps to communicate the policy to employees. If businesses fail to understand the rapidly changing social media landscape we are now part of, they will fail to keep up. 

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February 27, 2020
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Salesman lied so much on his CV he ruined thousands of children’s education

Thousands of children’s futures were jeopardised by a salesman who blagged his way into a job running state schools, a tribunal has revealed.

When Johnson Kane co-founded the Education Fellowship Trust in 2012, he presented an impressive CV suggesting he was more than up for the job.

He claimed the Government had put him on the board of the British Airports Authority before it was privatised, that he had run a venture capital bank and that he was high up in John Lewis, when in fact he was a shop floor salesman.

Mr Kane, 67, earned a £160,000 salary for six years as chief executive of the trust, which collapsed after leaving five schools with disastrous exam results and millions of pounds in the red.

In 2017 the trust became the first in the country to give up all of its schools, after several failed inspections damaged the prospects of 6,500 students.

Files from an Information Rights Tribunal released this week show the Department for Education’s (DFE) failure to check Mr Kane’s credentials or handle whilstleblower disclosures properly.

Internal emails showed Government officials couldn’t verify the qualifications he had in 2014, but they sat on their hands until it was all too late.

One message said the DfE had ‘taken this as far as they can’ and would need Mr Kane’s written consent for a more in depth check, the Times reports.

An Information Rights Tribunal allows people to appeal against the Information Commissioner’s Office if their Freedom of Information requests have not been answered.

Mr Kane did work for the BAA as a commercial services director for 18 months having lied about his qualifications, but he was never on the board, the tribunal heard.

Former personnel director for the BAA John Mills told the tribunal how something about his claims didn’t add up.

He said: ‘The lies included naming a secondary school he had not attended and falsely claiming educational exam results.’

In 2014 the trust’s co-founder Sir Ewan Harper, who played an instrumental role in the academies policy in Tony Blair’s government, stood down from his post.

The decision to quit came after the Department for Education found ‘unusual payments’ and that Sir Ewan’s daughter had been working for a press officer.

They also found the trust had been renting its offices from his wife.

After the trust’s eventual downfall regional schools commissioner Martin Post forged a deal which meant all 12 of the trust’s schools were in the hands of central government.

Mr Kane got to stay in his job for one more year while new sponsors were found for the schools in Wiltshire, Northamptonshire and Berkshire.

The DfE said: ‘The Education Fellowship Trust has now closed. Since the introduction of regional schools commissioners, the department’s processes for sponsor approval have been strengthened, while senior appointments are a matter for academy trusts.’

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February 26, 2020
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Fake degree scam: ABVP threatens to gherao House

Protesting against issuing of five lakh fake degrees by two private universities in Himachal and inaction by the state government and Himachal Pradesh Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Commission (HPPEIRC), the ABVP locked the HPPEIRC office.

District convener Sachin said the government and regulatory commission have failed to rein in private universities. As a result, a big fake degree scam has surfaced.

He said such scams have brought a bad name to the state and the student community condemns such acts. The UGC had sent a letter to the government in August 2019 but no action was taken, he stated.

The ABVP state secretary Rahul Rana warned that the ABVP would intensify its agitation and even gherao the Vidhan Sabha in the coming days.

The Shimla police have registered a case under Sections 147,149,341, IPC, on the complaint of HPPEIRC secretary Poonam alleging that a protest was held by 20-25 people, headed by Vishal Verma, secretary ABVP, in front of the commission Office Phase III in New Shimla. The protesters blocked the way to the office and tried to close the office forcibly. The case is being investigated, police sources said.

Image: ABVP activists try to close the door of HP Private Educational Institutions
Regulatory Commission office during a protest at BCS in Shimla on Tuesday.

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