How social media can lose you your job

When a Canadian garage worker tweeted a request for a drug dealer to drop some marijuana round to his workplace, the police saw the funny side: they retweeted the message to their own followers, adding: "Awesome! Can we come too?"

Unfortunately, though, the man's employers failed to see the funny side, and promptly fired him. The same thing happened to the Buckingham Palace guard who called Kate Middleton a 'stupid stuck-up cow'.


A surprisingly common mistake is to forget that you're Facebook friends with the boss - like the woman who was fired after describing her manager as 'pervy' in a post he saw just hours later. More usually, though, it's a colleague that puts the boot in. And it's not just personal remarks that can get you in trouble; it can be anything that could cause your company to be seen in an unflattering light - like the Virgin Atlantic cabin crew who described seeing cockroaches on their planes.

"Judges have held in several cases now that anything you put on social media is public," says employment specialist Michael Scutt of Excello Law. "Case law seems to be developing that if it does bring an employer into disrepute, even if you don't name the company, as long as people can work it out - because the employee's friends know where they work - then that is going to be enough."

Employers do, though, have to be careful about snooping on their staff. The danger is, says Scutt, that firing workers on the basis of their social media activity can easily be seen as discrimination.

"If employers do start trawling social media accounts and discover an employee is gay, for example, but they're discreet about it at work; well, if that person is then made redundant, even if the motivation wasn't homophobia, it does give the chance for the employee to complain," he says.

"It also depends on how the employee reacts; if they agree to take the post down and be very, very contrite, then I think there's a strong chance a tribunal would consider that it was unfair dismissal if they were fired."

Increasingly, though, the problems can begin before you've even got the job. A survey last year by PR agencies Eurocom Worldwide and Six Degrees found that a staggering 40 percent of technology companies look at job applicants' profiles on social media sites before offering them a position. Indeed, Six Degrees' managing director, Jennifer Janson, says she does it herself.

"We certainly as a business owner when interviewing candidates will look at their social profile," she says. "It can add colour to a CV and be a very positive thing. I don't think I'd ever reject anybody on the basis of their social media profile, though."

However, plenty of people do - one in five, according to the survey. "Why wouldn't I?" asks one manager with an IT firm. "We get hundreds of applications for every job, and it's a good way of weeding people out. If their Facebook page is full of stupid comments or pictures of them getting roaring drunk, then they're probably too dumb for the job."

A recent study by On Device Research found that nearly one in ten young British people believes that they've been turned down for a job because of their social media profile. While this may be wishful thinking - there could be more compelling reasons for their rejection, after all - it does show that job applicants are at least aware of the dangers. Unfortunately, though, it doesn't appear that they're altering their behaviour accordingly, with two-thirds saying they don't think their use of social media now could harm their future career prospects.

"If getting a job wasn't hard enough in this tough economic climate, young people are getting rejected from employment because of their social media profiles - and they don't seem to be concerned about it," says Siim Teller, On Device Research's marketing manager.

There have been moves - strongly opposed by Google in particular - to try and give EU citizens the 'right to be forgotten' and allow them to demand that embarrassing information be taken down. Unfortunately, a ruling this summer established that this right does not exist under current law.

So how to prevent your social media past from coming back to haunt you? You can, of course, simply close your accounts down. Otherwise, it's a question of using privacy settings to the full, while being aware of their limitations.

Many people, for example, fail to realise that on Twitter, all tweets are completely public by default. On Facebook, meanwhile, limiting posts to Friends Only stops strangers seeing what you got up to last night. But some basic information is always publicly available, such as your profile picture and 'networks' such as your school and university - so think very carefully about what you choose to include.

Britain's most dangerous jobs
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How social media can lose you your job

By far the most dangerous job across most of the world is fishing. Apparently 103 in every 100,000 fishermen will die at sea - most of them by drowning, and according to Oxford University, those who work at sea are an incredible 50 times more likely to die at work than anyone else.

How well they are rewarded for risking their lives depends on where they fit in the pecking order. At the very top, with your own boat and crew, in a good year, you could bring home more than £100,000. At the bottom of the heap as a trainee deckhand you would be lucky to get more than £10,000 a year.

In the army, these experts have the nickname Felix - because they need every one of the nine lives. We all make mistakes at work and in this role mistakes will kill or maim you. 

In return for taking up such a dangerous role, you'll be paid £32,000 a year, which is made to look even more paltry by the fact that many of these experts end up drawing a disability pension before very long.

The risks of working with highly volatile and explosive materials in impossibly difficult natural environments is bad enough. Add in the risks of working in politically charged environments where you may well be a target for terrorists, and you can see why this is a dangerous job. In fact it has a fatality rate of around 32 per 100,000, and around 100 people a year die in the industry- around twice the average for all UK workers.

This risk, however, is reasonably rewarded - partly because of the fact it can be hard to attract workers to the places where oil and gas needs to be extracted. It's not uncommon for those with experience to be making £75,000 a year.

Put people up high, give them something heavy and awkward to carry, then get them to do it in the rain. It's not surprising this is a dangerous job. What is perhaps surprising is that over the past five years 30% of all work-related deaths in the UK have been in this industry. The riskiest construction jobs are those where heights are part of the every-day business of work - with scaffolders, steeplejacks ad roofers facing the most danger at work.

The pay starts around £20,000 for skilled workers, rising to around £50,000 for site managers.

Around 54,000 road accidents involving professional drivers take place on British roads every year - which is around 250 a day. Meanwhile, one in four of all road deaths involve a driver who is at work at the time. Despite stringent rules about how long they are allowed to drive for, and in-cab telematics to make sure they don't bend the rules, tiredness is the main cause. 

In return for the danger, plus the long hours and the anti-social lifestyle, these workers can expect to earn around £25,000 a year.

The risks are perhaps unsurprising, given that drowning accounts for the majority of fatalities. However there are also problems from high gas consumption and mental health problems, often due to having to spend inordinate times decompressing in a confined space with another individual.

However, given the risks, the inhospitable locations and the skills required, the role can earn you £100,000 a year or more.

These are often ex-military personnel employed to protect wealthy or powerful individuals. The role is unsurprisingly highly dangerous, with the constant threat of terrorist attacks, enemy fire or booby traps.

There really is danger money associated with this job, which is another role than can earn the right individual 6 figures a year.

Around 15 police officers lose their lives at work every year. However, surprisingly, the biggest risk is from involvement in a road accident, which causes 70% of the deaths. Around half of these are officers getting to and from work. Meanwhile no more than one or two are killed by criminals in an average year. Fatalities, however, are only a small proportion of the massive number of injuries a policeman can pick up - with roughly one police officer injured every hour.

In return they can expect to earn around £40,000, rising to £55,000 for senior officers.

Again there aren't a huge number of deaths in the line of duty. However, every fire is potentially fatal, and every job carries the risk of injury. Injures are very common, although burns account for only 5% of them, the rest tend to be due to things like training and carrying equipment.

The pay has been subject to a number of arguments and even strikes but is currently around £30,000.

Perhaps it's surprising that this doesn't come higher up the list. Since 2001 over 350 have lost their lives fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The front line is clearly just about the most dangerous environment possible, and has to be up there with the place that most people would least like to work.

In return for putting their lives on the line in the service of their county, army personnel can expect to be paid £14,000 when they start out - rising to up to £100,000 for the most senior officers.

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