A high profile employment law case is rumbling on in Australia. Disgraced Wallabies star and devout Christian Israel Folau is suing Rugby Australia for unfair dismissal.
Folau’s employer cancelled his multi-million dollar contract last month after he posted the following on his Instagram account.
“Drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters” Repent or “Hell awaits you”.
Following the incident, Folau set up a GoFundMe page to raise $3m to cover his legal fees. He is facing a barrage of criticism and backlash from fans and former colleagues for his behaviour and public fundraising efforts.
In the case of Creighton v Together Housing Association Ltd (2017), the employee was dismissed three years after posting derogatory comments about his employer on twitter. His 30 years of service meant nothing in a court of law.
The Internet, like an elephant, does not forget. Once in the public domain, comments remain forever for all to see.
Creating a social media policy
To minimise risk and protect data, employers must ensure every employee understands their responsibilities around social media use – within and outside the workplace. The best way to do this is to have a robust social media policy in place. It should clearly outline the behaviours you expect online and explain the consequences of breaching this policy.
For businesses with active customer-facing social media channels, your policy should cover the use of official accounts. Specialist training is advisable for customer-facing teams to provide the guidance they need to accurately represent your business online. One poorly worded tweet or inappropriate picture shared has the potential to ruin your brand reputation and negatively impact upon customer relations.
Questions employers should address in their social media policies include:
- Is it appropriate for employees to identify you as their employer on their social media accounts?
- Is it appropriate for employees to connect or become friends on social media platforms?
- What do you consider to be acceptable and unacceptable online conduct?
- Which sites are acceptable for employees to use in work time?
- What company information is confidential and not for sharing on social media?
- How and when employees should use personal social feeds, and what situations they should avoid.
- What will happen if an employee breaches the policy? (e.g. the kind of disciplinary action you may take, your approach to grievances etc.)?
- What are the potential consequences of online bullying in the workplace?
- Who is authorised to speak on behalf of your company on social media?
Communicating your expectations
Once in place, clear communication of the policy across the organisation is essential. Employees need to understand its function and see senior members of staff demonstrating best practice. For this reason, management training is essential.
You might consider annual refresher training to highlight any changes to the policy and remind all staff of its contents. This could take place in person or as an online training package. It’s an opportunity to share the standards you expect and provide examples of messaging that’s appropriate to post.
The aim is not to discourage employees from using social media. Happy, engaged employees sharing their love for your organisation are incredibly valuable when it comes to brand reputation and attracting new recruits.
A social media policy is there for a reason – to protect your employees and your organisation.
Free social media resources
Social media use poses a constant headache for HR Managers the world over. The words and photographs an employee posts over the weekend may not be a reflection of how they conduct themselves in a work environment, however they can cause major damage to their employer’s reputation.
We’ve produced some helpful free resources on social media use in the workplace and what happens to personal LinkedIn contacts when an employee leaves the business. You can download your free copies from our Resources section.
What happens if your policy is breached?
In the event that a breach occurs, ensure you clearly document all evidence collected and any decisions you take, along with the reasons behind these. This evidence may prove crucial in any ensuing legal case.
If you require further guidance on social media use, policy creation or would like to arrange workplace training in this area, please contact our consultants on 01942 727200.