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A Social Media Policy is a document established by the Employer that outlines the rules, practices, and procedures for Employees using social media, either on their own time or when representing the Employer.
In a Social Media Policy, the Employer informs Employees about the standards that are expected of them while using social media. This may cover such matters as whether the Employees can use social media during work hours, whether they can use it on the Employer's computers or other devices, whether they can publish information about the Employer, or whether they can present themselves online as a representative of the Employer.
Generally, Employer policies (such as a Social Media Policy) don't have to be approved by Employees. While Employment Agreements are often negotiated between Employees and Employers, Social Media Policies (and other Employer policies) are more of a reference point regarding the Employer's standard procedures and guidelines.
Social Media Policies are not generally intended to be contractually binding on Employees. Instead, they explain the Employer's general rules, procedures and expectations of Employees in relation to social media. As a consequence, if the Employer fails to follow a particular policy, the Employee may not be able to claim that the Employer has breached its contractual obligations. However, this also means that if there are specific matters of importance, that should be legally binding on the Employee (such as their specific job duties, confidentiality obligations, or conflict of interest obligations), then the Employer should make sure that these are addressed in a legally binding document, such as an Employment Agreement, a Confidentiality Agreement or a Non-Compete Agreement.
In addition to a Social Media Policy, many Employers have other documents to address various other employment related matters. We have a number of these types of documents available for download, including an Employee Handbook, Drug and Alcohol Policy, and a Discrimination Policy. These documents can work in conjunction with the Social Media Policy.
How to use this document
This document should be used by an Employer that wants to set out their rules regarding Employee use of social media.
The Employer can enter their relevant details at the start of the document, and can select various options throughout the document to adapt it to their particular circumstances.
The Employer should ensure that the document accurately reflects their actual approach to these matters.
Once the document has been completed, it can be made available to Employees. It may be provided to new Employees when they first start working with the Employer. For existing Employees, it may be distributed, together with a message to notify them that this document outlines the Employer's updated approach to social media.
In any event, it is important that the details of this Policy are actually communicated to Employees, and that Employees actually understand what is expected of them. An easy way to do this is by sending a Letter to Employees About New or Updated Workplace Policies.
Some Employers choose to have Employees sign a copy of the document, to confirm that they have read and understood it. Signed copies may be kept on file by the Employer. This document has an option to include space for the Employee to sign it.
Some Employers also choose to make reference to this Policy within the Employment Contract.
Social Media Policies may be affected by various Australian laws.
For example, if bullying, harassment, victimisation or discrimination takes place via social media, then this may be affected by legislation such as:
If defamation occurs via social media, then this may be affected by legislation such as:
If an employee's use of social media leads to issues in relation to health and safety, then this may be affected by state or territory legislation in relation to work health and safety. Further information is available from Safe Work Australia.
In addition, the Fair Work Act 2009 (Commonwealth) deals with other employment matters such as unfair dismissal.
Ordinary principles of contract law, as provided by the common law, may also apply to the general terms of the employee's employment.
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