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Social Media in the Workplace. Who Knows the Policy?

Published May 1, 2017 (last updated on July 2, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Content Writer


Having the right policy on social media is only half the battle in ensuring your employees conduct themselves properly online. The key piece in having an effective policy is that it is communicated to your employees and enforced. Having a well-written social media policy can count for nothing if employees do not know their obligations and the expectations around their behaviour.

An example of getting this wrong can be seen with a company in Victoria losing a case in the Fair Work Commission (FWC) after terminating an employee based on a breach of their social media policy, which was found not to have been communicated to the terminated employee.

In this case, Commissioner Gregory stated that while the language used in a particular post was vulgar, it was also common in this workplace. Following an explanation from the terminated employee that the post was not aimed at the employer; that he did not know of any policy forbidding social media use at work; and that he was not afforded an opportunity to respond to the dismissal, the unfair dismissal claim was successful and the company was ordered to pay compensation.

Social media and recruitment

Some employers may choose to use social media accounts to screen potential candidates during a recruitment process. This should be reminder that job hunters need to maintain a respectable online presence. However, there is also some risk to the employer when using social platforms as a recruitment strategy , for example around issues of privacy, data protection and discrimination.

Personal information about an applicant’s social or family life, age, ethnicity or sexual orientation may well be published on a social networking page but these must not be used in any way to influence recruitment decisions. Visit our guide on discrimination for more information.

While such information may be off limits for recruiters, your personal conduct, photos, and status updates on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn are still subject to review and employees should be aware of this when they are looking for new employment. Michael Page can give you tips on how to perfect your social resume.

How to create a social media policy

Social media policies, like all workplace policies, should be clear and communicated to all staff. There are some guidelines which should be covered in any social media policy, including:

  • the employer, another employee or client are not to be mentioned or identified

  • no use of social media on work devices, or during work hours

  • penalties for breaching the policy, and whether a breach of the policy constitutes serious misconduct

  • clear guidelines for the use of the employer’s social media for work duties

As social media becomes more and more prominent it is vital that its use in the workplace is managed and monitored. For assistance with a social media policy, contact Peninsula on 1300 651 415.

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