Can employers force employees to choose between OnlyFans and their job?

Can employers force employees to choose between OnlyFans and their job?

Commenting on the case, Ella Bond said: 'As the popularity of OnlyFans grows, it is increasingly likely we could see more and more high-profile figures forced to choose between a place on such websites and their jobs like Sarah Jayne did.'

'Seemingly Channel Four took a position that Sarah Jayne’s presence on the site would not reflect well on their brand. Their reference to Hollyoaks being a ‘youth-facing drama with many young viewers, who follow our cast very closely’ indicated producers had concerns about reputational damage.'

'It’s therefore possible this case could now set a precedent, and that other broadcasters and companies could follow suit by asking employees not to use websites like OnlyFans.'

'The case underlines what is increasingly becoming an issue for both employees and employers; that the line between what is private out of work activity on social media and what is personal is increasingly becoming blurred.'

'The reality is that what employees say and do online will often be noted by their employers. And it will often be reviewed by employers ahead of recruiting a candidate. Individuals applying for jobs while also being on OnlyFans or sharing similar images to other websites would therefore be wise to take note of this.'

'A sensible step for employers concerned about this would be to create a social media usage policy which they communicate to staff in writing.'

'It should contain clear references to the separation between business and private use, and if limited private use of social media is permitted in the workplace, it should be clear what this means in practice.'

'Employers should take time and care to develop a comprehensive policy which sets out what is and what is not acceptable behaviour when using social media.'

'And managers need to be clear what is and what is not acceptable when using the internet, emails, smart phones, and social networking websites.'

'Social media policies are becoming of increasing importance because postings on social media platforms affect communications among staff members and prospective staff members and how they treat each other, as well as how businesses promote and control their reputation.'

'There are also other issues which, if not controlled correctly by a business, could have negative implications including time theft, defamation, cyber bullying, freedom of speech and the invasion of privacy.'

Eight steps employers can follow in this area:

  • Draft a clear policy which all employees have access to and that they know where to find it.
  • When drafting a policy, you should carefully balance a number of factors, including the employer’s attitude toward social media use in its workplace, the nature of the employer’s business and characteristics of the employees and workplace environment.
  • Regularly review and update the policy to ensure it is kept current with changing law, technologies and business practices.
  • A good social media policy should not silence employees, it should allow them to speak out about the business without damaging its reputation.
  • Have contractual clauses in place which expressly prohibit certain types of activity which may be adverse to an employee’s ability to work or to the reputation of the business. For example, clauses preventing employees’ engagement elsewhere outside of the workplace; and a prohibition on posting provocative images on websites or social networking sites where public access can be obtained.
  • Have a clear disciplinary policy in place to deal with situations where contractual terms or other expected standards of behaviour have been breached.  
  • The disciplinary policy should clearly detail examples of what actions amount to misconduct and gross misconduct and what sanctions could be taken in relation to each.
  • A clause or policy is only as good as its enforcement, any infringements should be followed up and enforced consistently.

About our expert

Ella Bond

Ella Bond

Senior Employment Law Solicitor
Ella joined Harper James as a Senior Solicitor in January 2020, having previously worked at top 50 West Midlands law firm Shakespeares (now Shakespeare Martineau). Having qualified in 2007, she is highly experienced in the field of Employment Law, working with a vast range of clients from start-ups to large national and multi-national companies.

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