Social Media is now common place with a majority of our employees, which is easy to believe when statistic such as Facebook reveal they have over 1 billion monthly, active users.

With this growing form of communication, it hasalso put the spot light on how employer’s navigate the line between an employee’s privacy, out of hours conduct and their right to personal expression and the employer’s right to protect its organisation’s reputation, enforce the contractual relationship with its employees and also protect the safety of the staff.

Cases have established that employees making derogatory comments about their employer from their home computers outside of work hours can come under scrutiny of the employer.   In one case Commissioner Bissett makes the statement that “it would be foolish of employees to think they may say as they wish on their Facebook page with total immunity from any consequences.”

Staff Misconception

But as you may know, many employees seem to be under the misconception that their postings on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are a private communication and therefore protects them from scrutiny of their employers.

Employees need to be aware that they do have freedom to put their thoughts out through social media during out of work hours, but this is a public forum so employees need to understand that when they are articulating their thoughts this does not give them liberty to:

  • breach the terms of their employment contract for example by breaching policies of discrimination, harassment of confidentiality;
  • damage the reputation of their employer; and
  • defame or harass fellow employees or colleagues of the organisation.

It is important when establishing a Policy on out of work hour’s use of social media; it is limited to the abovementioned conduct or conduct that affects the employment relationship

So what is the answer?

Having a social media policy has a two pronged affect; firstly it educates the naïve employees and provides them with the boundaries they need to understand what is suitable and what is not suitable. The second affect is that if employees do the wrong thing on social media, it gives a good foundation of the disciplinary actions to be taken with the employee involved.

The contents of a Social Media Policy

I have listed some things you need to think about in drafting your Social Media Policy:
•    Who does the Social Media Policy apply to;
•    You need to distinguish between engaging in social media as part of your employment and also social media that is outside of your employment.
•    If staff have company computers or smart phones – what are the staff allowed to use them for;
•    Clearly define what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in both internal and external social media use.;
•    Outline why out of hours conduct can be directly connected to the employment relationship;
•    Ensure your policy is relevant to you organisation;
•    Ensure the policy is communicated effectively;

To find out more about having a suitable Social Media policy or other employment policies to protect you and your employees, please do not hesitate to contact Kristen@alliedrisk.com.au or phone (02) 9635 0477.

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