Recent Fair Work commission cases have demonstrated how important it is for organisations to have a social media policy to reduce uncertainty around acceptable use. An updated well distributed social media use policy can protect your organisation if your employees engage in harmful social media use that requires disciplinary action.

It can be assumed, nearly all employees have a social media account. Employee’s acceptable social media use (particularly regarding the organisation or clients of the organisation) should be included in a social media policy to outline expectations and strengthen grounds for dismissal if an employee grossly misuses social

Case Study

This issue is highlighted in a 2019 case, where an employee of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship was found to have posted over 9000 anonymous tweets criticising her employer. She did not publicly declare she was a public servant, however her identity was revealed during an internal investigation and her employment was terminated. The validity of her termination was supported by the Australia Public Service’s clear code of conduct which contained social media guidelines. The employee had acted against the code by making unofficial public comments criticising the government, politicians and their policies. Therefore her dismissal was justified.

If an employee files for unfair dismissal, having a social media policy where a breach is clear can reduce the risk of the dismissal being overturned. Without a social media policy, the Fair Work Commission has the power to determine what is considered acceptable use. This occurred when an employee from Linfox Australia claimed he was unfairly dismissed after being terminated for making racist and sexist Facebook comments. The commissioner decided that though the comments were in poor taste they were not enough to warrant termination, so the employee won the case.

Social media use policies can act as protective, in case of unfair dismissal claims, and preventative tool. Social media posts can never be permanently removed from the internet, as reputational damage can occur instantly, and copies can spread. Employees may still be subject to disciplinary action even if they delete offending posts.

If an employee breaches your social media use policy, act quickly to warn them of their breach. Detail the breach and reinforce the expectations for acceptable use to employees. This will justify a legitimate dismissal if required.

ProcessWorx offers social media use and other essential HR policies customised to your business. View our HR packages here or contact us for more information on (08) 9316 9896, or email enquiries@processworx.com.au.

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Written by Danielle McNamee

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