What can HR learn from Gary-gate?

A tweet by Gary Lineker about asylum seekers caused quite the media storm, with the BBC requesting he step back from presenting Match of the Day over the weekend.

Now, after a whirlwind couple of days the BBC has confirmed that Lineker will return to his presenting role.

But what can HR learn from this?

Alan Price, BrightHR CEO, says “It can be difficult to balance freedom of speech without permitting behaviours that cause offence.

“Employees are entitled to hold their own opinions on any political, social, religious, topical, or other matter. However, in some cases, it will not be appropriate for staff to express them in the workplace; or the way in which they are manifested in work can be unreasonable.

“Where this happens, employers can take reasonable action against them. This has been confirmed by several recent tribunal cases. It’s important to remember that some opinions may be protected under the Equality Act 2010 as a philosophical belief. As such, businesses should be careful that they don’t discriminate against an employee or victimise others who support the employee with their beliefs, as doing so may lead to tribunal claims.

“Perhaps most crucial of all, the situation with Gary Lineker and the BBC serves as a timely reminder to employers to review their social media policy and make amends where necessary to ensure it is reasonable for today’s digital environment.

“BBC director general Tim Davie recognised that confusion was caused by the grey areas of the BBC’s social media guidance that was introduced in 2020. This highlights the need to conduct regular reviews of all contractual policies, to ensure they continue to provide the most benefit to all.

“Social media continues to evolve and grow; just a few years ago, TikTok was no more than an idea on paper, yet today it’s one of the most used digital platforms. It can sometimes be difficult for businesses to keep up with such technological advances, but it’s important they do so, to avoid issues like this arising. Ultimately, a reasonable and relevant social media policy can help safeguard both the employee and employer, as all parties are aware of what constitutes appropriate use. Where the policy is breached, employers are then able to take fair action against the employee for it.”


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