Social Media in the Workplace

Social Media in the Workplace

Social Media in the Workplace

Is your business adequately protected from the risks of employee misuse?

Social media has grown significantly in recent years. Responsible and savvy use of social media outlets by business can result in a range of commercial benefits flowing to an enterprise. However, it is vital that employers are fully aware of the impact it can have on recruitment, the reputation of your business, and termination of employment. A lack of social media policy or employee awareness training can expose businesses to a range of claims by prospective, current or former employees. A number of the key issues are outlined below:

Recruitment Process

Specific sites such as LinkedIn provide a unique opportunity for employers & prospective candidates to connect. Social media provides businesses with the ability to screen applicants during the recruitment process. A significant risk which may arise from this process is that an unsuccessful applicant may institute a claim asserting that employment was not offered on the basis of a particular characteristic, such as racial background or sexual orientation, if this information were apparent from social media sites. Employers must be vigilant to protect against such claims during recruitment procedures.

Existing Employees

Employers can be held vicariously liable for the conduct of its employees on social media. This may even arise where the misconduct has occurred outside of work hours. In addition, social media misuse can adversely impact upon the reputation of your business, commercial confidentiality and the work, health & safety of employees.

It is considered vital that employers adopt & implement a comprehensive social media policy to mitigate the relevant risks. Any such policy should outline the expectations of the business regarding employee use of social media and any usage should be regulated against the policy. It is equally vital that employees receive training on social media policies and awareness to mitigate the risk of a successful unfair dismissal action being mounted against the employer.

The importance of an adequate social media policy & employee training sessions is demonstrated in the Fair Work Commission (FWC) decision in Malcolm Pearson v Linfox Australia Pty Ltd [2014] FWC 446 (17 January 2014.)

In this case, the FWC emphasised that employers can require employees to comply with social media polices regulating their conduct outside of the workplace. The employee in question had refused to sign an acknowledgement that he had undergone social media training. He subsequently posted offensive and discriminatory posts regarding two of his managers on Facebook. His employment was terminated as a result. The employee asserted that his dismissal was unfair, arguing that as the posts were made outside of work hours, the employer was not permitted to take any action against him.

The FWC disagreed, and found that the employer acted lawfully in terminating employment. Following further appeals by the employee, this decision was upheld by the Full Bench of the FWC & the Full Court of the Federal Court.

This decision reflects that employees have an increasingly sophisticated understanding of social media which their workplace behaviour ought reflect. The decision also reflects that businesses with comprehensive, well-communicated and up-to-date social media policies are best positioned to hold employees accountable for their actions and defend legal claims such as unfair dismissals arising from social media misuse.

Pinnacle HR (PHR) has arranged a training session on 2 June 2016 on Social Media Awareness for Supervisors & Team Leaders. Please click here for further information.

In addition, PHR offers specific onsite training for employees on Social Media Awareness and policy compliance. Such training is interactive & utilises a range of case studies to reiterate to employees the risks of social media misuse both to organisations and to their own employment.

PHR also assists clients in the formulation & development of social media policies tailored to specific workplaces.