Most of us will use social media in our personal lives, and increasingly our professional ones too. In fact, social media is a great tool for connecting with our customers, members and fellow colleagues to share the great products and services we have to offer.

But we all need to be responsible about what we put on social media – especially when our profiles connect us to the Co-op. Whatever your privacy settings, what you post on social media is never really private.

So we’ve clarified our expectations for colleagues when using social media in our new social media policy – so everyone can be clear what’s okay and not okay to put online. This isn’t about controlling what people say, but about making sure views are expressed in a respectful way. A good rule of thumb is – if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, then don’t put it on social media.

This policy supports our wider social media principles that we ask everyone engaging with us on social media to use.

If you have any questions about social media you can contact the Group social media team on

Join the conversation! 44 Comments

  1. I would go as far as to say EVERYONE with a social media profile that works for Co-op is in breach of this new policy.

    Pick a profile and I guarantee that something that person has “liked, shared or posted” “COULD” be found offensive by someone.

    My profile picture on facebook as an example. Me and my wife holding hands walking outside the Natural History Museum “COULD” be found offensive by quite a few different groups of people. E.G.

    1. The public display of affection (holding hands) “COULD” be found offensive.
    2. The fact my wife doesn’t have her head covered “COULD” be found offensive.
    3. The fact we are outside of the Natural History Museum “COULD” be found offensive.

    I will await my disciplinary…

    • Hi “We Are All In Breach Of This Policy” It’s not the case of disciplining colleagues for using social media. We wouldn’t say that you holding hands with your wife would lead to a disciplinary, it’s great to hear that you’re both very happy. ^Scott

      • You are missing the point Scott!

        The point is that literally everything posted, liked or shared on social media “Could” be seen as offensive. The policy states ” comments or images on social media that people could view as offensive, discriminatory, bullying or threatening, we’ll deal with it as we would if you’d done it at work.”

        So as anything “Could” be viewed as offensive means we are all in breach of this policy, even your good self Scott. I used my profile picture as an example of this, on the face of it, it’s a pretty boring mundane picture, but people “Could” find it offensive I am therefore in breach of this policy.

      • Purely out of curiosity,what would be the likely outcome if:

        a) someone complained that they found this photo offensive, or

        b) someone complained that they believed that the photo could be considered offensive by others?

        The policy states that it considers “[posting] comments or images on social media that people could view as offensive” as a breach.

        As the person posting the photo is aware that it could be offensive to people of certain beliefs and heritages, it would appear that your hand is being somewhat forced into disciplinary action on the whim of the complainer.

  2. As a Manager told me many years ago ” watch what you put on social media as it has a habit of coming back to haunt you”. a few months later after defending the Co-op on a local issue where I live\work was told by area manager\ rom to refrain from commenting on it even though I Had said nothing but positive things about the Company and had actually made and pointed out some things that local people did not know the Company did. So I deleted my social media platforms FB\Twitter etc and have never been happier not living my life being watched by Big Brother. so now I no longer promote the company or defend the company in any shape or form but still believe that after all my years in retail they are one of the better ones to work for

  3. Nothing wrong with guidelines, at least we know the policy and more importantly know the do’s and don’ts when it comes to social media

  4. You all realise now anyone that has commented here is having their social media accounts studied to the nth degree right?
    Serious question;
    Does the policy cover things from your whole social media profile since it’s inception or from only when you became a Co-op employee?

    • Hi ‘Serious Question’, I’ll ask my colleague in the policy team and get back to you. ^Catherine

    • Hi, the policy team have come back to us, and informed that they’re not going back and looking at anyone’s account as a result of issuing the new policy. The policy has been created to offer clear guidance and make sure colleagues understand they have a responsibility to act respectfully regarding anything on social media that could be linked to the Co-op. ^Catherine

      • Notwithstanding we live in a democracy and have free speech (within the bounds of law – the Law doesn’t require you to be respectful, because respectful is subjective)

        “the policy team have come back to us, and informed that they’re not going back and looking at anyone’s account as a result of issuing the new policy”

        Mmmmm – that not the same as saying “Any Historic Social Media etc is NOT subject to this policy and neither is anything Prior to your start date (i.e. you start in 6 months time BUT you post something next week hypothetically negatively about the Co-op OR you’re having a “go” at someone.

        My understanding. the policy team do not execute a disciplinary or grievances – they have no input – they just write a policy – its managers and whistle blowers who raise issues. HR/ERC offer “guidance” based on written policy.

        For example – 18 months ago, a colleague slated me in a non “respectful” way and was negative about the Coop on social media – I couldn’t do anything then, but I can now – because the policy DOES NOT relate to any time bound restrictions – as such, there are no restrictions.

        Now if I choose to force the issue I could go all the way to a tribunal, at which point in a court of Law what you say (i.e. Policy) is what you mean – so if its not in policy, you don’t mean it.

        To be fair, the Coop does support Free speech, the notice boards allow questionable content (someone may be offended by a comment, but as long as its done respectful (??) they are printed and not removed if someone complains). Personally, I think the policy is a catch all, just in case someone goes all “Trump” on the Coop.

        My views only and not representative of anyone else’s and as my expertise on this is about Nil – it may be the only right thing is the spelling and not the content or grammar

  5. The co-op has direct access to my driving history/ records, can randomly test me for alcohol drugs at any time, I am required to declare any second occupation and hours worked there on a weekly basis, can contact my GP if I am off work sick and you are surprised that they want to control what you say or think. Just waiting on the electronic ankle tag!

    • Hi John. If you’re a driver which it sounds like you might be, then it wouldn’t be an unusual request for another other similar position, would it really? You’re free to express your own opinion, in a respectful way as you would do whilst representing the Co-op at work. ^Ian

      • That’s like saying you can do something in your spare time, if it conforms to our standards? What a joke of an organisation. If you offend someone and they then complain to HR – what then? #coop secret police.

  6. I have never had anything on my social media account that indicates that I work for the co-op as my account is private and nothing to do with work. The only time that I have ever mentioned the co-op is to promote community events. I will now be no longer doing this as it works both ways.

  7. I agree with Anon & Sarah: the policy seems to assert the right to seek control over whatever I might say or write as a private person on social media. The justification? Simply because I might indicate on my profile that I work for the coop.

    Bernard puts it very eloquently: the policy isn’t clear but interpreting the current wording, it would indicate the above. I’d expect this is not only ‘not fair’ but also possibly not legal. But would an employee have a leg to stand on if it was acted on? And is the mere threat of this not already crossing the line?

    At the very least I would otherwise consider removing the fact that I am a Coop employee from my profile. (Hardly the desired result for an organisation who promotes the ‘Be yourself, always’ and is apparently community centred.) Or maybe a disclaimer on my social media profiles, such as ‘views are my own’? But then again: would I not be sharing any Coop messages anymore..?

    May I suggest that this will be clarified publically, ie for all colleagues, not just to those who will be contacted as indicated on individual posts?

    • Hi Stef. ​We’re not saying you can’t express your personal views online with or without identifying yourself as working for the Co-op, but just to do so respectfully. When identifying yourself as working for the Co-op at any time of day on any medium, you represent us and therefore, we’re saying if you wouldn’t say it or behave like that in work, don’t do it online. ^Ian

  8. There is always someone, somewhere who is going to be offended by something that someone somewhere said/wrote. It’s a result of the nanny state we now live in. I don’t understand why people can’t just be offended and leave it at that. No-one is going to completely agree with everything everyone says and it’s a shame that people feel the need to ‘pursue’ an indiscretion/opinion to the enth degree of the law.
    That said, if I’m understanding correctly – we can no longer say anything about any subject because someone ‘could’ be offended by it despite the fact we have the right and freedom to do so under the Human Rights Act.
    The fact that the Co-Op now feels the need to police our private time is ridiculous – schools don’t manage what children do out of school (except homework but not downtime), firemen aren’t told to wait in their wellies whilst off shift.
    In a nutshell – it’s preposterous.
    What ever happened to common sense?

    • Hi Sarah. Whilst I understand your viewpoint, really. It’s worth noting that whilst wearing a school uniform for example, students are representing the school and so, the school have an interest in their behaviour after the school gates close. The same applies for many other businesses, increasingly so, across the world as we keep up to date with social media developments. We’re not saying you can’t express your personal views online, but just to do so respectfully, Sarah. ^Ian


    I have previously removed all people as friends on facebook who work for the Co-op. Can’t trust anybody not to grass these days.

  10. So now its totalitarian policies by Coop? Why if we have no association to coop (Not mentioned on any social media, but perhaps have colleagues from the coop with in “freinds” on social media) does this mean I can’t express my far left/right political views? It’s a tad unfair isn’t it?

    It’s as though you want full control over staff, out side the normal 9-5. Whats next – surveillance systems, punishing staff for not promoting coop pages/products? Curfews? I think you seriously need to tread this line carefully. Freedom of expression is a human right: Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, states that: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

    You promote : Be yourself – perhaps you should then stick a caveat on the end of this.

    • Hi ‘Anon’, We’re not saying that you’re not entitled to your honest opinion. We’re saying that you need to be conscious of what you’re saying if you’re linking yourself to the Co-op. ^Sophie

      • Unfortunately Sophie, your answer does not correlate with either the wording of the policy or the answers already given by your colleague in the comments section of this page.
        This is not a knock on you. The policy is so badly worded that even the people explaining it can’t all agree on what it means.

        “if you’re linking yourself to the Co-op” is not a condition of the policy. Jordan has confirmed that if offensive content was posted by someone that they believe to be a colleague, then they will take action regardless of whether there is a clear link to the Co-op or not.
        The policy states that there is only a requirement that “people you’re connected with would know that”.

        if you read the policy in full, you’ll see that we’re being told that we have to be more than just “conscious of what [we’re] saying”. We have to be conscious of simply agreeing with what someone else with no connection whatsoever to the Co-op is saying, just in case another person might think that someone else might think it’s offensive.

        The exact wording of the policy is thus:
        “if you post comments or images on social media that people could view as offensive, discriminatory, bullying or threatening, we’ll deal with it as we would if you’d done it at work. This means we may follow the disciplinary process. This is also true if you’ve ‘liked’ or shared something someone else has posted.”

        “This is also true if you’ve ‘liked’ or shared something someone else has posted.”

        The use of the word “could” means that the content doesn’t have to be offensive, or that it was intended to be offensive, simply that there is the possibility that it could theoretically be interpreted to be by someone.

        To put this into a slightly extreme but no less realistic context:

        As well as being dashingly handsome and charismatic, I do enjoy things of an astronomical nature (child of the 80s, Star Wars everywhere, etc.) and have a particular soft spot for the ISS.
        Let’s say a friend of mine shares an image of the Aurora Borealis taken from the ISS. Those incredible streaks of green and purple arcing over the northern hemisphere.

        Let’s say that I “like” the image, and why wouldn’t I? They’re an absolutely beautiful, marvelous sight to behold.
        Alas, I’m now in breach of your Social Media Policy.

        How? Because there are people out there that believe that the ISS doesn’t exist. That the images that they send back are part of a massive fraud hiding the fact that the Earth is flat. The number Flat Earth believers is expanding massively (and inexplicably include a disproportionate number of basketball players) and anything that I post, share or even simply like from the ISS, the Space Shuttle, Voyager, Viking, Cassini etc. could cause offense because it’s a direct affront to their beliefs.

        It doesn’t mean they will be offended, but they “could” be. Or someone who isn’t offended might think that someone else “could” be.

        By the wording of the policy, that’s all that’s required for me to be in breach of it.

        Policies should not be subjective, ever. The fact that there are inconsistent answers in this comments section means that you cannot even guarantee that the policy will be enforced consistently.
        The outcome of any Social Media review should be guided by a clear, consistent, black and white policy, not the luck of the draw on whether it’s you or Jordan making the decision.

        I trust that you can see my email address, so if you would like to discuss this with me directly, you are more than welcome to.

        • Hi Bernard, thanks for the detailed feedback. With your permission, I can pass your email onto a colleague who can speak with you about this in more detail as it isn’t I (nor Sophie) who would be enforcing this policy. Let me know. ^Jordan

  11. I agree with most of it – my concern is this section.

    “It might go without saying, but if you post comments or images on social media that people could view as offensive, discriminatory, bullying or threatening, we’ll deal with it as we would if you’d done it at work. This means we may follow the disciplinary process.”

    Surely this is for the police and not for Co-op HR.

    Just as if a colleague made an offensive comment to a person on the street it would be the police and not Co-op HR that dealt with it?

    • Hi Josh, I’m afraid I can’t answer this question, but I think it’s an interesting one. Perhaps you ask your local HR representative or HR Services on 0330 606 1001? ^Jordan

      • Logically it can be a matter for both.

        If you’re bullying and threatening a colleague, then it’s perfectly reasonable for HR to show you where the door is.

        If the person you’re bullying and threatening wishes to deal with it as a criminal matter, then that’s perfectly reasonable too.

    • Hi Josh, I’ve since found a colleague who may be able to help here. Please bear with me. ^Jordan

    • Hi Josh, my colleague Andy has been in touch and says: the social media policy is all about applying the same standards to social media that already exist in policies such as our Bullying and Harassment policy. So, if someone makes a comment that a fellow colleague would find offensive, whether it’s in work, outside work or on social media, we will apply the same approach to dealing with it. Andy says; the best way to think about it is if a colleague heard you making the comment in work or on the street and would find it offensive, then the same standard applies to the comment being made on social media. ^Jordan

  12. I’m slightly perplexed as to the apparent outrage of employees. It’s very simple, just don’t write that you work for the Co-op and then you can say whatever outrageous or offensive things you like. There seems to be absolutely no problem here whatsoever. It’s a sensible policy that prevents the Co-op being brought into disrepute.

    • I dont think its as clear as that when you look at it more closely….unless you remove friends who also work for the Co-Op

      “This is particularly important if your profile includes that you work for the Co-op, or people you’re connected with would know that.”

    • I’m afraid that’s not the case, Spoderman. If we’re lead to believe that the comments made by an account are those of a colleague, regardless of whether the account carries their name or not, our colleagues in HR are likely to take acton. ^Jordan

      • I don’t mind. I don’t intend on posting offensive things. I mean, just don’t post offensive things generally I guess is the principle.

      • You’re going to have to be very careful about that I think.

        “Lead to believe” is very vague.

        I know someone who is pursuing a very successful constructive dismissal case against an employer based on a senior manager being led to believe something and conducting “an investigation” with very little justification or regard for due process.

        I’d like to see how you could act fairly if your attention is drawn to a comment made by someone who has the same name as a colleague and then ask the colleague to prove it wasn’t them.

    • If you read it in full, that’s certainly not the case.

      The policy threatens disciplinary action for posting, sharing, or even simply liking comments and images that “people could view as offensive”, and you don’t even have to mention on your profile that you work for Co-op, simply that “people you’re connected with would know” that you do.

      So, for example:
      My Facebook page doesn’t mention that I work for Co-op. It’s never mentioned anywhere that I’ve ever worked, because for me Facebook is for entertainment and not ‘real life’. I don’t air my dirty laundry, divulge other people’s personal problems, don’t slag off work, and so on. I should be safe, right?

      Well, not really. There are people that I’m “connected with” that know I work for Co-op. In the past I have liked posts that criticized organisations that were involved in the abhorrently exploitative Workfare Scheme that the DWP ran.

      According to the new policy, because I’ve liked a post made by someone else, that “could” be viewed as offensive to another party, I’m now in breach of the policy and am at risk of disciplinary action up to and including dismissal, being hung, drawn and quartered and my remains being used in Tesco’s lasagnas now that they can’t get horse meat.

      While it’d be nice to think that a common sense approach will be used on anything that they have to review, but as it is, the policy is open to abuse.
      People can choose to be offended by anything they like, regardless of the intent under which it was posted.

      If I’d have posted this on Facebook, I probably would have offended someone that knew someone who once lived next door to someone that worked at Tesco, so would have been clearing out my desk before I saw any replies.

      “Our colleagues in HR have drafted this policy in an attempt to help make the distinction between what is, and what isn’t acceptable in their eyes.”

      It gives me no comfort that HR get to decide what is acceptable for me to like.

      • Hi Bernard, I see your point but I hope you find some comfort in the fact that no one person would be responsible for making a decision as to whether your apparent breach of the policy was, in fact, a breach. Several colleagues would be involved, so I’d like to think common sense would prevail. ^Jordan

  13. The vast majority of posts and replies on this site are posted by Alias accounts.
    My gut feeling this is the case is because colleagues fear they cannot , in fact express their views freely.

  14. Im very happy for the Coop that they have adopted a new policy , but I don’t recall it being part of my contract and I haven’t been asked to sign up to it. What’s more I certainly don’t expect that my PERSONAL views and opinions on my PERSONAL social media accounts should lead to any disciplinary actions being taken against my in work. I wonder if the Unions have been consulted in relation to this as it would seem to be bigger than just implementing a new policy. Id like to know what the legal ramification are for the coop enforcing a internal policy on my personal life as well…..

    • Hi Big Briother, the Acceptable Use Policy is referenced in colleague contracts. HR Services can help you want to understand more about this, they’re on 0330 606 1001. ^Jordan

  15. All very well and good but coming from an organisation that funds some of the most divisive, hate-mongering and disrespectful rags in this country (Daily Mail et al), a tad hypocritical. That’s a message far stronger than a rude word.

  16. I will say what I like. It has absolutely nothing to do with you.

    • I’d always encourage you to speak your mind, ‘1AS Insider’ and you shouldn’t feel the need to use alias accounts to do so. Our colleagues in HR have drafted this policy in an attempt to help make the distinction between what is, and what isn’t acceptable in their eyes. ^Jordan

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