Following England’s exit from the UEFA Euros after reaching the final against Italy on Sunday 11 July, a number of black England players have been subject to racist comments and abuse online.


The media has widely covered the backlash that footballers have received, which sadly, is not a new problem, it is something black football players have endured for decades.


A number of tweets and Facebook posts have gone viral in a bid to ‘name and shame’ individuals who have shared racist opinions online after the match. Many of these people had included their employer within the online profiles and some employers can be easily traced back from a simple search online.


So, what stance should an employer take when it comes to actions outside of the workplace or posts on social media from employees?


Social Media Outside of Work


Millions of people use social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and LinkedIn every single day. Whilst mostly used to share information, news, photographs and light-hearted content, social media does become a place where individuals share their political views and opinions, which for a small number, includes sharing of inappropriate content, offensive jokes, hate speech and even targeted ‘trolling’ of others.


Many people will believe that what they do outside of the workplace or post online in their own personal time will not affect their employment. This is untrue. Where a person’s online posts or behaviour outside of the workplace could damage the business’s reputation and credibility, then an employee can be disciplined or dismissed from work.


When Can An Employer Take Action?


As you may have read in the news, national estate agency firm Savills, has suspended an employee who is now under investigation after a series of racist tweets surfaced promptly after the England v Italy final last week.


Even when a company name is not referred to or someone does not have their employer listed anywhere on their social media account, if they can be linked back to the company in any way and are putting the business reputation at risk, then action can be taken.


This could include disciplinaries, verbal warnings, written warning, suspension, investigation, police investigation and dismissal, depending on the severity of the posts and the risk to the employer.


racism at work hate speech on social medial employment law

Review Your Policies


Employers should adopt a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to dealing with racism.  Racism and offensive behaviour in the workplace should therefore always be taken very seriously and acted on promptly, but employers should also be aware of how their employees conduct themselves outside of the workplace and online, after hours.


Now is a good time to review your policies and handbooks to ensure that you cover the expectations and the consequences of such behaviour online. Review your social media policy to check that it covers all bases and re-circulate it as a timely reminder on staff conduct.


Consider your workplace culture – Is it diverse and inclusive? Do employees know how to report racism, and do they feel supported to do so? Are managers adequately trained?


HR Training & Support


If you are facing issues with staff involving racism or other offensive behaviour online then it is important to take advice promptly, not only to protect your business, but also to take a strong stance on behalf of your other employees and stamp out behaviour that is not tolerated within your business.


For an audit of your current workplace policies and handbooks or to discuss diversity and inclusion training for your managers, please get in touch with our expert Employment Law Team.


Call Lamb Brooks on 01256 844888, email enquiries@lambbrooks.com or speak to our online chat assistant at any time of day.


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The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice.  The law may have changed since this article was published.   Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.