Ask About... Retail, Hospitality & Leisure
16/02/2012 in Employment, Retail, Hospitality & Leisure
This month we asked James Walters...
I have noticed one of my employees using a location-based dating application on his mobile phone during his lunch break. The application puts you in touch with other people who are also using the application and are in the immediate vicinity at that moment. I am worried that my employee might use the application to conduct inappropriate behaviour with guests at our hotel. What should I do? I am concerned that if he does, guests could complain.
A - Dismiss him. His behaviour could seriously damage business by undermining the hotel's reputation. Nip it in the bud before it's too late
B - Give him a warning
C - Do nothing - as long as he's using the app in his lunch break, there's nothing I can do. What employees do in their time off is their business not mine
The correct answer is B: Consider giving him a formal warning – but only if you think that he really has broken the rules. Social networking is second nature to many people and unless you’ve made it clear, he may not even realise that he’s doing anything wrong.
Clear misconduct by staff using social media shouldn’t be treated differently from other types of misconduct just because it’s happened online.
Employers are entitled to take steps to ensure that their businesses aren’t damaged by irresponsible online behaviour by their staff. If you already have a clear written policy on staff use of social media, you should check it to see whether your employee has breached it. If he has – or if he has breached the terms of his contract – you should consider issuing a formal warning. Clearly, if your employee actually does use the application to conduct inappropriate behaviour with any of the hotel’s guests, this will very likely constitute gross misconduct.
That said, it’s not fair to discipline an employee who isn’t aware that what he’s doing is wrong. While, you may be justifiably, concerned about reputational damage to your hotel, you must set clear standards so that employees know what is expected of them. If you don’t have a policy in place, or feel that your policy is not clear, or doesn’t cover this situation, you should consider instead an informal warning. This will enable you tell your employee that you have a problem with their behaviour and to clarify how you expect them to behave in future.
If you don’t have a policy in place already, you should introduce a ‘sensible use’ policy on the use of social media. The policy should leave no room for doubt on the standards you expect from your staff when they use social media.
The policy should include when and for how long employees are allowed to access social media sites or smartphone applications while they’re working. You might also think about restricting the types of sites that can be visited, which would clearly help in this case - for example, banning staff use of location based applications at or near the hotel. Without a doubt, the policy should also state that staff should not at any time, whether at work or not, say or do anything using social media that might bring the hotel into disrepute. What is important is that the policy is clear and effectively communicated to your staff and that it is applied consistently.
You may also want to consider monitoring the email and internet usage of staff who have access to the internet at work. You will only be able to monitor activities undertaken using the hotel’s equipment or systems, and you will need to ensure that the monitoring is proportionate. You will also need to inform your employees of the extent of your monitoring and ensure that it complies with the Employment Practices Code.
For further information please contact our employment team.