Workplace social media policies

As with most workplace policies, a social media policy has a dual role. The first aim is to provide guidance to employees so that their use of social media doesn’t get them into trouble (or at least, doesn’t get them into trouble in a way which concerns the employer). However, if trouble cannot be avoided, the second aim of the policy is to provide a firm basis for any disciplinary action (including dismissal) which the employer considers to be necessary.

In late 2011 Fair Work Australia reinstated an employee of Linfox who had been dismissed for material, which the employee has posted on Facebook. Linfox did not have a social media policy at the time of the employees dismissal, relying on their induction training and guidelines handbook hence why Fair Work Australia won the case and labeled Linfox’s use of the training guidelines as “non sufficient”.

Author of No Social Media Policy? “Not sufficient”, says Fair Work Australia, Angus Macinnis, identifies four broad areas in which social media use has the capacity to affect employment – leading to concern for the employee, thus social media policy action must take place.

The first area is social media use, which has the capacity to damage the employee’s professional reputation.

For example contact between a teacher and a student may give rise for favouritism.

The second area is social media use, which has the capacity to damage the reputation of the employer.

The following case study is an example of a prank gone wrong. Thanks to the power of social media, they ended up with felony charges, millions of disgusted viewers, and a company facing a public relations crisis. A week after the video went viral the franchisor’s share price fell by 10%. This is a clear example of how social media can turn small incidents into marketing crisis. Practitioners call this a digital crisis. Even though apologies were made and workers claim they didn’t serve any of the tainted food, they were still fired.

The third area is social media use, which has the capacity to damage the employee’s ability to work with their colleagues.

Harmless conversational banter at the pub with a work college can be justified, however once you put something online it there forever (change this wording)

The fourth area is social media use, which breaches another of the employer’s policies. This includes discrimination, harassment and the next case study, OH&S.

15 miners sacked and banned from company projects for life after shaking up work place policies. Surprisingly not all 15 were involved in the dance. on lookers were also sacked. Breach of Barminco’s “core values of safety, integrity and excellence”. The Harlem Shake as many of you already know is 30 seconds that can make or in this case break you!


There was one claim for unfair dismissal, Stephen Dixon, on the basis that it was harsh and unjust to sack him over the incident. Interestingly enough, the miners discussed safety before the dance ensuring they wore the necessary helmets, cap lamps, glasses and portable oxygen devices. Their reasoning for not wearing their long sleeve shirts was so the Barminco logo was not visible. The company still stuck to their policy regarding values and will not make any exceptions.

Making employees aware that social media use is relevant to employment is detrimental to the reputation of an employee, employer and a brand. Barminco is a contracting company, this case has severely damaged its professional reputation, which will hinder future contracts.

The Cosmic Law – Don’t post anything which you wouldn’t want to see next to your name on the front page of a newspaper.




About Nicola Salter

Nicola. 21. UOW Graduate
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