The past few years have seen an exponential increase in the uses
and forms of social media. Facebook, Twitter and You Tube can be
accessed via desktop, laptop, web book, smart phone or tablet.
Increased use of "Smart TV's" and media centres has
fused our use of broadcast and broadband, introducing social media
into our lounge rooms and TV screens.
Facing this ease of access, many employers have abandoned
policies prohibiting access to social media. Instead, employers are
now focusing on how they can reasonably (and legally) restrict
access to and use of social media by employees (and contractors) in
ways that may damage their business.
We have been advising employers that they need to ensure that
they have policies in place adequately managing employee
use of social media that touches the workplace.
The accelerated use of social media is increasing the
permeability of workplace and personal behaviour; an employee's
non-workplace use of social media may well have a workplace impact.
This has resulted in employers having to walk a fine line in
determining what level of restriction is appropriate.
Fundamentally, an employer will want a social media
policy to protect it from employee use of social media in a way
that actually or potentially damages the employer's
For example, NSW public school teachers (but not students) are
now permitted to access social media in the classroom. The
Department of Education and Training's social media policy
applies "...to employees' work use and personal use of
social media at any time, when it has a clear and close
connection with the department."
As policies can apply to employee conduct
outside the workplace, they may attract employee / representative
feedback. For example, responding to feedback from the Finance
Sector Union, a major Australian trading bank recently clarified
employee social media obligations to act in the Bank's best
interests and report third party material disparaging the Bank. It
is important for enforceability of the policy to identify how and
where employee use of social media touches on the employment
relationship and may impact the employer.
Further concerns are raised by social media use that
indirectly threatens an employer's
If an individual is prominently connected with a particular
brand or company, for example as a client facing staff member or a
brand champion, the individual's use of social media in his or
her personal capacity may impact on the
employer's business (e.g. if the individual uses social media
to make comments or post images perceived by the employer's
customers / clients as offensive, this may have a negative impact
on the employer's business).
The pervasiveness of social media in the workplace and potential
impact on an employer's business makes it essential for
employers to consider managing employee use of social media through
What employers require in their social media policies will vary
in line with several factors including the size of the
organisation, use of social media by the employer as a business
tool and public exposure – it is important that employers
turn their minds to what they require in a social media policy and
that the policy is tailored appropriately.
We will be running a Critical Issues in Employment seminar to
assist clients further explore issues. The seminars will be run in
each of our Australian offices on the following dates:
We will cover:
an international perspective on social networking –
and the Australian impact
employers' rights to monitor and regulate employees'
social media use
employees' obligations when using social networking
social media networking policies – what to
employer risks in using social media in the recruitment
the interaction between social media and privacy laws
recent case law involving social media issues in the workplace,
how to prepare yourself for potential litigation.
Please keep an eye out for our invitation in your inbox over the
coming weeks. This seminar will fill up fast so be sure to respond
In the meantime should you have any questions or require further
information please contact a member of our Employment team.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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The Spam Act regulates sending of commercial electronic messages and this article in the series looks at that definition.
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