It is well recognised that in the 21st century workplace, many
people with internet access are visiting social media sites daily.
The media is full of reports that speak in terms of lost
productivity, reputational risk, harassment suits, defamation and
the like, which arise from often poorly regulated and managed
social media policies.
Positive and negative statements have the potential to now, more
than ever, impact both personal and organisational reputations
thanks to the immediacy and accessibility of:
video and photo sharing
Facebook, You Tube and other popular social media sites
online discussion forums,
to name but a few, each enhanced by powerful improvements in
smart phone technology and mobile internet access.
There is no question that social media, used well and monitored
effectively, can be a powerful marketing tool and greatly aid
organisations in obtaining a completive edge in the market. Social
media, however, is fast becoming the 'weapon of choice' for
disgruntled employees, so employers who are unprepared and have no
policy or protocols in place should take notice.
Many experts suggest that banning all access is simply
ineffective to manage the risk, given the accessibility of such
sites on mobile phones and tablets, and after hours. It is not
possible for employers to proactively police every portal or device
that might be used without turning the workplace into something
resembling George Orwell's vision of 1984, breeding resentment
and impacting productivity.
It is of critical importance for employers to make sure they
have a social media policy that makes a clear distinction between
public and personal information, and who is and is not authorised
to make public comment on behalf of the employer.
Fair Work Australia, in a recent ruling reinstating an employee
who was fired after posting negative comments on Facebook, noted
that if a recognised policy had been in place that clearly outlined
acceptable and unacceptable conduct, its decision to reinstate the
employee may have been different.
Key lessons for employers
A good social media policy will set out in clear and unambiguous
terms the employer's expectations around the use of social
media both in and outside of the workplace.
It is essential that any policy cover, amongst other things:
all social media sites or derivatives that may exist in future
and guidelines for commentary
ensuring appropriate controls and authorisations exist for
business, marketing recruitment related content and
the consequences of non-compliance with the policy.
This needs to be backed up by systematic and regular awareness
The issue of recording telephone calls was recently considered in the Federal Court in Furnari v Ziegert  FCA 1080.
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