It seems that cases of employees being fired over their use of social media are often in the news. While the highly publicised stories can seem detached from your everyday experiences, its important that you’re aware of the rules surrounding the use of your personal social media accounts. For example, do you have a social media policy in your workplace?
There are over 12 million Australians on Facebook alone, with millions of others on Instagram, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and YouTube.
With such widespread use of these mostly public platforms, it’s essential that you, as either an employee or employer, know your rights and can identify how to stay within the boundaries of Australian employment law.
Consequences of breaching a social media policy
Generally, an employer will be in a strong position to terminate an employee’s contract if the employee has violated the company’s social media policy or any training they were given on using social media.
In addition, the use of social media must have the capacity to damage the business – whether that’s damage to finances, reputation or something else. Most cases involve social media posts that contain offensive or inappropriate material (such as racist material or content that defames someone within the company).
How can employers promote appropriate private social media use?
As an employer, the best way to protect you and your business from negative social media use is to create a clear and comprehensive social media policy.
A good social media policy should explain social media best practice within your business, the kind of behaviour that will not be tolerated and any penalties.
Your social media policy should be communicated effectively throughout your business and should apply to all staff. After all, junior employees are unlikely to follow the rules if they can plainly see their seniors aren’t complying with them. With a social media policy in place, you’ll be able to deal easily with any issues that arise around social media use in future.
It’s best to seek professional legal advice to ensure whatever steps you take are safely within Australian employment law if:
- you’ve been sharing inappropriate tweets or Facebook posts and your employer is attempting to end your employment contract, or
- you’re a business owner and one of your employees’ social media use is damaging, or potentially damaging, your company.