Social media: Is it taking over your business?

With over 11 million Australian Facebook user profiles, it is safe to say that Australians are using social media platforms, both inside and outside work hours. From documenting the daily sunrise, to snapping a photo of your lunch, social media use is now second nature to many Australians, and we can only estimate that its use will continue to increase.

With social media slowly taking over as the number one online activity, it is now the perfect time to explore your limits of control over social media use both at work and while employees are at home.

Set your expectations

The best (and easiest) way to set your expectations of social media use is to have a comprehensive and compliant social media policy. Your policy should identify when/if social media use is ever permitted at work, and what behavioural standards must be upheld while engaging in social media both at home and at work. A good idea is to specify within the policy that the policy is not limited to company premises or during standard working hours. Your policy should also clearly identify the consequences of non-compliance with the social media policy, is termination a possible outcome?

The implications of not having a social media policy are extensive. If you don’t have a policy in place dictating what behaviour is and isn’t acceptable, what are you disciplining employees for breaching? What code of conduct/policy have they not acted within the limits of?

So can social media outside work hours lead to disciplinary action within the workplace?

While your initial thoughts might be “no”, there are certain circumstances in which your employees can be held accountable for their actions online outside work hours. Ask yourself:

  1. Has the online conduct affected or damaged the relationship between the employer and employee? This includes the employee’s relationship with other employees, including identifying and making inappropriate comments about co-workers online.
  1. Has the conduct affected the employee’s performance of work
  1. Has the conduct affected the interests of the employer? This includes brand/reputational damage. Has the employee identified the employer on their social media account, or disclosed any confidential information? Has the employee made disparaging or unfavourable comments about the employer or other employees online?

If you were able to answer “yes” to any of the above questions, you would be able to investigate the out-of-hours conduct, and possibly discipline your employees in line with your code of conduct/social media policy.

As per Commissioner Bissett in the 2010 case of Fitzgerald v Smith t/as Escape Hair Design, “It would be foolish of employees to think they may say as they wish on their Facebook page with total immunity from any consequences.”

For more information on social media use during and outside work times, clients should contact the HR Assured team. If you’d like more information about the benefits of becoming an HR Assured client contact us today for an informal chat.