Use of social media

11 Dec 2018

Breaches of social media rules have resulted in disciplinary action

Departmental Standards of Behaviour                                        

DWP expects all employees to take care when using any social networking site at home, in your own time and using your own computer. The DWP Standards of Behaviour Procedure for ‘Participating online on the internet or intranet – Social Networking – Blogging or any other mediawarns:

  • The simple rule to remember is that the principles covering the use of social and other digital media by civil servants in either their official or a personal capacity are the same as those that apply for any other activity. Social media is a public forum and the same considerations would apply as, say, to speaking in public or writing for a publication either officially or out of work. (Paragraph 31)
  • …avoid making any kind of personal attack or tasteless or offensive remarks to individuals or groups - i.e. anything that would cause offence to a reasonable person. This applies irrespective of whether you can or cannot be identified as an employee of the Department. In these circumstances, if posts / comments are considered inappropriate, disciplinary action will be taken that could lead to dismissal. (Paragraph 33)
  • It’s important that we are all aware that posting any content that is considered inappropriate – whether in an official or personal capacity – may result in disciplinary action which could lead to dismissal. (Paragraph 35)

Civil Service Management Code

The Civil Service Management Code also requires civil servants to take care when discussing political issues and avoid jeopardizing their civil service role. The Code states that:

Civil servants…must not allow the expression of their personal political views to constitute so strong and so comprehensive a commitment to one political party as to inhibit or appear to inhibit loyal and effective service to Ministers of another party. They must take particular care to express comment with moderation, particularly about matters for which their own Ministers are responsible; to avoid comment altogether about matters of controversy affecting the responsibility of their own Ministers, and to avoid personal attacks’. (Paragraph 4.4.13)

Photographs and videos

Take care when posting a workplace related photograph or video on social media. A record of inappropriate behaviour in the workplace may seem, at first, to be ‘just a bit of fun’ to you but could be evidence for disciplinary action under DWP Standards of Behaviour or Social Media Policy.

Make sure that photos or videos posted on social media do not contain ‘secure data’ such as building passes, Wi-Fi details, personal information etc. in shot. Double check all images before posting.

PCS Advice for Members

When using social media, such as Facebook or Twitter, you should be aware of the current DWP Standards of Behaviour for social media under Participating online on the internet or intranet – Social Networking – Blogging or any other media’ (Procedures 30 – 42)

Normal disciplinary principles apply for social media related cases but there are some key issues that can impact the outcome of such cases, for example:

  • How did you react when social media misconduct was discovered? Was an unqualified apology given? Was the offending material quickly deleted?

DWP Standards of Behaviour confirm that you do not need permission to take part in trade union activities in your own time but you will still be bound by rules on disclosure of information. The civil service encourages employees to join an appropriate trade union and play an active part within it. (Paragraph 52)

However, normal standards of conduct should be maintained at all times for all social media postings. Be polite – Imagine someone saying the same thing to yourself. If you would find it offensive then it is probably not a good idea to say it to others:

  • Don’t swear or name call
  • Never be defamatory
  • Don’t threaten, bully or harass

Always pause before posting your views or re-posting someone else’s – Do you want all intended recipients to see the post? Think about how they’ll react.

Always contact your local PCS representative for advice, support and representation before you attend any meeting for any alleged misconduct related to your use of social media

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