With the rapid and widespread increase of social media over recent years, employers are having to deal with the impact that it has in the workplace –  and as technology continues to evolve, the line between employees’ private lives and their professional lives is becoming blurred.

Now, more than ever, employers need to be clear about what rights and obligations they have when dealing with issues arising out of social media misuse.

More and more cases are emerging out of the Fair Work Commission dealing with the impact of social media in the workplace, and what action employers are able to take when an employee uses social media in a way that is damaging or inappropriate. Some recent examples include:

  • A Federal police officer who was dismissed for (amongst other things) posting derogatory comments on his ex-wife’s Facebook page.
  • A salesperson dismissed for making crude comments on his Facebook page relating to his co-workers, during work hours.
  • A truck driver sacked for posting derogatory comments about his managers on Facebook outside of work hours.

In each of these cases, although the comments were undoubtedly crude, offensive and inappropriate, the employees were successful in claiming they had been unfairly dismissed, and were each awarded compensation.

The lessons for employers from these and other similar cases are:

  • It is essential to have a social media policy in place…and to educate staff about it
  • Proper and fair processes need to be followed before deciding to dismiss an employee
  • The line between an employee’s private life and work life is becoming blurred, and ‘the workplace’ is no longer confined to what happens between the four walls of the office

Perks People & Culture often hear from clients who are faced with the challenge of dealing with social media misconduct, and are unsure what steps they can take to address it. We will be holding a free information session for all Perks clients on Tuesday, 29th August from 5.30pm to 7.00pm covering these issues, and providing practical tips and advice. If you would like to pre-register for this event, please contact Cecilia White at cwhite@perks.com.au. We look forward to seeing you at the upcoming session!