Regardless of who you are or the size of your business, the widespread and exponential use of social media in the last few years means that social media has significant potential to affect you and your customers. The business world is rife with stories where a company’s reputation has been adversely affected by a single inappropriate post on social media linked to the company.
Like most other policies and procedures found in the workplace, some of the benefits to having a social media policy in place include:
There has been an increasing number of disputes between employers and employees in relation to an employee’s use of social media. In the recent case of Waters v Mt Arthur Coal, the employee made an application for unfair dismissal after his employment was terminated for posting incorrect work related information on Facebook, affecting hundreds of other employees. While the post was made outside of work hours and on his personal account, the Commission found in the employer’s favour and determined that the post was related to work matters and was in breach of an existing workplace policy.
While the case above provides that it is possible to terminate an employee due to social media conduct, factors employers need to consider before doing so include, but are not limited to:
While a breach of a known workplace policy would give an employer much stronger reason to consider termination, the employer should still provide procedural fairness within any investigation and subsequent disciplinary action, including termination. In the case of Singh v Aerocare Flight Support Pty Ltd, the employee was found to have been wrongfully dismissed after his offensive comments on Facebook were found to have been sarcastic in nature but the employer had failed to properly research the matter before dismissing Mr Singh.
Workplace policies and procedures will likely vary between businesses and industries, for example an office environment will likely have different, and generally less onerous, safety procedures than you would consider for other more high risk environments such as a mining or construction sites.
The following are some things to consider when reviewing or creating a workplace policy:
When it comes to workplace policies you must ensure that they are reasonable and purposeful, and therefore don’t do more harm than good to the culture and moral in your business, and that they are not contrary to any legislated requirement, including the Fair Work Act.
Not all social media polices are created equal.
As mentioned above, the type of social media policies and its contents will differ from business to business. Using a standard template form for a social medial policy will rarely be as effective as engaging a professional to draft or review your policy. Your social media policy has to reflect the nature of your business, including its employees, marketing strategies and client engagement strategies amongst other things.
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The above information is a summary and overview of the matters discussed. This publication does not constitute legal advice and you should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.