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29 April 2015 | Kalina Sobczak, Justitia

Managing the use of social media in the workplace

Introduction

The rise of social media platforms creates serious challenges for employers. Inappropriate social media use by employees may cause detriment to the employer's reputation or business interests. This article discusses recent Fair Work Commission (FWC) decisions concerning employees' use of social media, focusing on examples of unacceptable social media conduct. This article provides practical tips for employers on how to manage social media issues in the workplace, including implementing and enforcing a social media policy.

Tips for managing the use of social media in the workplace:

  • The FWC is increasingly dealing with cases involving employees' social media activity. Although the topic is relatively new and is a developing area of law, it is an established principle that employers can take disciplinary action regarding employees' out of hours conduct in certain circumstances. This may include conduct such as derogatory or defamatory comments about employers or co-workers posted by employees on social media platforms.
  • Recent decisions have established that it is legitimate for employers to implement and enforce a social media policy which regulates employees' use of social media in the workplace.
  • A social media policy should clearly state the expected standards of behaviour and disciplinary consequences of a breach of the policy. It must be regularly updated to reflect developments in technology and the social media landscape.
  • The policy should be reinforced with regular and up to date training, educating employees of the requisite standards of behaviour.
  • Effective enforcement of a social media policy requires monitoring of employees' use of social media in the workplace, which may include architectural modifications of the organisation's ICT equipment.
  • Enforcement of the social media policy must be consistent to avoid differential treatment of employees and must adhere to the principles of procedural fairness.

Conclusion

Advances in technology and the proliferation and popularity of social media platforms present unparalleled business opportunities. However the rise in social media activity may also have serious, negative implications for employers.

Therefore it is essential for organisations to implement a social media policy, reinforce and educate employees on the required standards of behaviour through regular and up to date training and ensure the policy is consistently enforced, while maintaining the requisite procedural fairness.

Note: This is an extract from Internet Law Bulletin, April 2015, Volume 18 No 2