Empowering the Freelance Economy

How your social media posts could get your freelance contract cancelled or worse

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Recruiters and umbrella companies should be taking a stance on social media policies for new and existing contractors to avoid reputational risk for their clients. But are contractors even aware of their social media policies and the repercussions for non-compliance? Here are some ways recruiters and contractors alike can avoid or fix a social media crisisbecause it could happen to anyone.

The tweet of no return?

It only takes one. That stranger that reads one of your social media posts (personal or even professional) and goes to town on it. You re-read their comments. You go back to what you posted and can’t make the connection between what you have posted and its good-natured intention and the stranger’s viper-like response. Before you know it other strangers join the bandwagon and your tweet is in the throes of a ping pong match of snarky replies.

Sometimes you can just leave the thread, even delete the post, but what if your post’s intention was misconstrued and eventually disparages your character and you become a meme overnight? Welcome to cancel culture and how it can seriously mess up your life and career whether your post’s intentions were cruel or not.

In light of a recent spree of racist comments on social media directed to England football players, including a mural of footballer and social justice activist Marcus Rashford being defaced following this year’s Euros final, many employers will likely strengthen their social media policies. Depending on their social media policy, clients, recruiters or your umbrella company could cancel your contract (as you can read in more detail below in this report).

Individuals are not alone in this quagmire of social media witch hunts and faux pas. Compliance-driven financial institutions and big-name brands can also easily fall into the troll trap or create a social media fail of their own making.

Whilst no-one condones inappropriate tweets there may well be a difference in how they are dealt with depending on whether they are sent from a corporate address or an individual’s personal feed.

Crawford Temple, CEO of Professional Passport

Can your recruiter and umbrella company cancel your contract over a social media post?

If a recruitment agency, end hirer or umbrella company has a social media policy, then read it. If they don’t they could get into hot water with wayward contractors, according to a white paper in association with Osborne Clarke, APSCo and SITEFORUM.

The absence of clear rules surrounding employee or contractor use of social media can cause problems for employers and recruiters needing to take action against misuse, said the report, titled, Social Media Policies for Recruitment Businesses.

“If an employee is dismissed due to their use of social media and there is no clear policy in place, there is a risk that the employee may bring a claim for unfair dismissal against the employer,” said the white paper report.

“This is why it is essential that a carefully worded social media policy is teamed up with the employer’s disciplinary policy. Given the importance and implications of these policies for recruitment businesses they should be reviewed by specialist advisors with experience of advising recruitment businesses.”

Crawford Temple, CEO of Professional Passport, a UK compliance assessor of payment intermediaries, including umbrella companies, said how an inappropriate tweet is handled could all depend on whether the social media trail can be linked back to the agency or client.

Crawford Temple, CEO Professional Passport

“Where it is seen as an individual post and there is no association back to an employer or linked brand this may be handled differently to one where there is a clear link or awareness of association to an employer or brand. The legal position is defined within the terms and conditions of the contract and this would identify whether such acts fell within these terms. Many contracts now have clauses around equality and diversity that seek to provide the ability to address these issues,” said Temple.

What should a social media policy include?

If an employee is dismissed due to their use of social media and there is no clear policy in place, there is a risk that the employee may bring a claim for unfair dismissal against the employer.

Social Media Policies for Recruitment Businesses White Paper Report
  • The risks (to the employer and employee) attached to posting negative content on social networking sites; what is, and what is not, acceptable in terms of references to the employer on social media sites;
  • Staff requirement to back-up online contacts and member lists from any LinkedIn Group(s) by requiring them to submit such information to central storage on a regular basis;
  • That the employer will take disciplinary action against employees who use social media in a way that is potentially damaging to the business;
  • Rules on accessing social media during working time;
  • That cyber-bullying amounts to harassment under the harassment policy;
  • Measures that an employer will take to protect confidential information relating to clients; and rules and guidance relating to employees’ use of social media to promote the business in the course of their work, including ownership of data.

Source: Osborne Clarke/APSCo

Social media clean-up companies

But what if you really make a digital arse of yourself with your digital assets? Can you do anything about it? According to a Financial Times report, there are companies that can give a helping hand: the social media clean-up companies.

It’s still early days, which is why companies that are offering social media reputational services don’t come cheap – they have the first-mover advantage. Some firms appear geared for high-net-worth individuals, CEOs of multinationals and even politicians. Others are targeting business reputations – turning around unsavoury customer reviews, for example, through a step-by-step crisis management plan.

But if you are already an SEO expert and understand how to bring a person’s digital assets into one place and that place ranks number one in searches on Google, then you just might have a career in digital reputation management. And if you have an HR buddy who is looking to branch out on their own as a consultant, you might just have the makings of a new business. Check out the companies towards the end of this article to suss the possibilities (and their prices if you need their services). In the meantime, here are some tips (for free).

Here’s some proactive social media faux pas-free advice:

  • Keep your mobile phone out of the bathroom (we don’t need to explain any potential scenarios, do we?)
  • Social media and drink don’t mix. Tell yourself if it is a brilliant post now, it will still be brilliant tomorrow, just with the added benefit of a clear head
  • Never post and drive (it’s against the law)
  • If it would upset or alienate your partner, parents, grandparents, kids, sibling, aunty, neighbour, boss or client – don’t post it! Whisper the expression to yourself. If that doesn’t do the trick, write it on a piece of paper, burn it and avoid a sacking, family mutiny, divorce or uncomfortable family reunion
  • If you want to share an inside joke with friends, perhaps keep it on WhatsApp. You can always delete the message (for you and everyone else) and it is not up for public discussion (well unless you are the PM and James Dyson)
  • Never write your full first name (just the initial) on LinkedIn if you share the same name as a convicted serial arsonist
  • Replace where possible disparaging posts and content with new, positive and reputable posts and social media profiles. Hire a freelance SEO specialist and social media consultant to work on your digital profile and assets

Social media reputation management companies to check out

The Marque (Mayfair, London)

Brand Yourself (New York)

Digitalis – Online Reputation and Digital Risk Management (London)

Terakeet (US/New York State)

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