Lineker shoots and scores for social media policies

28 March 2023

Gary Lineker, a popular sports presenter for the BBC, was recently suspended from work and temporarily removed as presenter on Match of the Day, following a tweet which saw him compare the language used in the Government’s new asylum legislation to that of 1930s Germany.

The suspension prompted fellow pundits including, Ian Wright, Alan Shearer and Alex Scott to announce that they would not be taking part in Match of the Day if Lineker continued to be suspended.

The BBC continued with suspension, stating that a tweet of this nature went against their social media guidance, however, the BBC found it difficult to clarify how the policy applied to Linker who was working for the BBC as a a “freelance” broadcaster as opposed to being a permanent employee and member of staff. Further discrepancy surrounded the fact that Linker had expressed his views on his personal account which did not include an official link to the BBC or Match of the Day. The BBC’s social media guidance did not adequately cover these points.

Following this confusion, Lineker was reinstated at the BBC, and an apology issued for any confusion caused by “grey areas” of their social media guidance which had been reviewed in 2020. The BBC have launched an independent review of their social media guidance and this will no doubt lead to a number of changes being made, particularly on how the policy will apply to freelancers, like Lineker.

What is the importance of having effective policies and undertaking regular audits?

  1. Protection

This case should serve as a reminder for employers to regularly review and implement robust, clear and appropriate policies that clearly demonstrate what is, and what is not acceptable. We would also recommend that all employers regularly review their policies and procedures to make sure that they work for their business structure and staffing arrangements.  In doing so, employers could be protected from serious potential disrepute especially in terms of social media, where posts can quickly spiral out of control and create negative publicity for businesses.

  1. Consequences

Social media policies are vital in ensuring that businesses are able to promote and control their reputation, whilst also ensuring the correct information is communicated to its members of staff and clients. There are a large number of issues that can arise for employers if a member of staff inappropriately uses social media, such as:

  • Potential unauthorised disclosure of confidential information.
  • Liability for discriminatory or defamatory comments posted by employees.
  • Reputational damage.

As social media platforms continue to thrive, and the law is consistently developing, it has never been more important for employers to ensure that they are conducting regular reviews of their policies and are amending these to ensure that they offer adequate protection which accurately reflects the ever-changing law, the business sector within which they operate in, and their personal business values.

How we can help your business

The Employment Team at Redkite Solicitors has a wealth of knowledge of advising on and drafting social media policies. Social media policies can either be drafted as stand-alone documents or as a part of a comprehensive Staff Handbook. Such policies would be drafted to accurately reflect your business and the sector within which you operate, as well ensuring that all wording is in line with current legislation.

The Employment Team is also able to provide comprehensive advice on how to determine worker status and the best practice for dealing with breaches of policies, such as social media.

This article was written by Redkite Solicitors, Rebecca James. To find out more about Rebecca and the support that she can provide to your business, visit her website profile here.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.