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Companies urged to implement social media policy

Businesses are damaging their brand by letting employees have free reign on social media with the real possibility that confidential information could be leaked.

That's the assessment of Tony Vernier, the managing director of Australian Business Lawyers and Advisors, who told an industrial relations conference in Melbourne that while social media has become part and parcel of life, a strict workplace policy is vital.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that, in a speech, Mr Vernier outlined how a social media strategy detailing the rules for employees is better than a blanket ban.

He highlighted: "And you can't just have a policy on the shelf – if people don't know about it, it's as if you don't have a policy."

Many cases of employee dismissal following use of social media have been overturned, usually because the employer had not laid out any policy regarding its use.

One such case, according to Fairfax, involved a landscape architect that had been fired for excessively using the chat function on Google Mail.

His termination was overturned by Fair Work Australia because the employer had failed to provide an outline of acceptable internet usage.

Mr Vernier went on to say that while big companies had implemented policies, small and medium-sized businesses had failed to introduce proper guidelines.

Another instance involved a LinFox employee who was sacked for writing unpleasant things about his bosses on Facebook.

He was ultimately re-hired because a court ruled he thought the conversation was private.

A Swinburne University study found that most employees who did use social media would access it for a few minutes at a time before returning to their work.

The study looked at Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.