You web browser may not be properly supported. To use this site and all its features we recommend using the latest versions of Chrome, Safari or Firefox

We are continuing to serve clients during the COVID-19 pandemic More Info.


Australian workers continue to embrace social media to connect with family, friends and colleagues. Yet as recent cases have shown, there's a grey line between your responsibilities as an employee at work and what you post on social media, and it's important to be aware of the pitfalls.

Frank opinions, robust debates and questionable jokes are just some of the day-to-day material you may see browsing your Facebook or Twitter feeds. Traditionally some of these conversations would have been saved for the pub, before we were gifted what is essentially a virtual online megaphone. Unlike the pub and its four walls, what is said on social media is much harder to contain and could eventually come back to haunt you.

The professional risks posed by Facebook and Twitter were highlighted recently when workers were sacked after their personal social media use was deemed inappropriate.

Take for example the highly-publicised incident involving a hotel worker who was sacked over an abusive Facebook post made to a newspaper columnist, or a worker who lost his job over an expletive-filled online rant against his manager posted from his home computer out-of-hours. There have even been instances where an employee’s comments on Facebook were interpreted as their resignation from the company.

While some of these examples cross-the-line in what is considered acceptable behaviour generally, these experiences act as a wake-up call for workers using social media to be careful about what you post and share. Workers face the risk their social media posts will not be simply considered an out-of-work activity and the posts may have a bearing on their employment.

Some common misconceptions around social media use include:

“Maximum privacy settings will protect me”

This has been disproven in court, especially if you have co-workers as friends. Anything can be screen-grabbed for an instant and re-shared to a wider audience. Many people also make the mistake of thinking their comments on a public page (such as a business or celebrity's) are private, because they themselves have a private account – this is not the case.


“My employer doesn’t have a social media policy in place”

While a clear and easily accessible social media policy is important for every business, the absence of such a policy won’t save you. The courts consider website posts that can be seen by an uncontrollable number of people as a public comment.


“The terms of my employment only apply during business hours”

There have been recent cases that show posting on social media outside working hours can be a breach of an employee’s contract. An employers's social media policy will often refer to your personal use outside of work and ask you to avoid bringing the company into disrepute.


“I didn’t post the comments or photo, it was a co-worker”

An employee can be held responsible for content that is shared online, even if they were not the original author. So, it's always a good idea to put an auto-lock on your computer or phone if you've got some particularly pesky co-workers.

What you can do now

Find out if you have a social media policy that can help guide you on what the expectations are at your workplace. If your business doesn't have a policy, read your contract carefully and speak to your manager or HR representative and ask where the line is drawn. The expecations between different occupations and businesses differ wildly, so it's up to you to do your homework.

The contents of this blog post are considered accurate as at the date of publication. However the applicable laws may be subject to change, thereby affecting the accuracy of the article. The information contained in this blog post is of a general nature only and is not specific to anyone’s personal circumstances. Please seek legal advice before acting on any of the information contained in this post.

Thank you for your feedback.

Related blog posts

Social Media and the Law
5 things to know about social media defamation

Australia’s first social media defamation case proceeded to full trial recently, with a former student ordered to pay more than $100,000 in damages over a series of defamatory posts about a teacher at the school. Now that’s an expensive tweet! It's also a reminder to the online community that defamation laws extend online; and it’s no surprise that we’re probably going to see more. Rather than expanding the definition of defamation under Australian law, this case reminds us that defamation already extends to the internet, and it should be a wake up call for anyone using social media to be careful about what they post. A split second decision to share information through social media...

Mobile Phone
Social Media and the Law
Stretching the boundaries of social media use

Recent cases involving employees’ use of social media have drawn attention to the now blurry distinction between work and home life. These cases invite us to question where the line should be drawn in relation to employees’ use of social media outside of work hours. The August 2013 decision of the Federal Circuit Court involving Michaela Banerji, a Canberra civil servant working in the public affairs section of the Federal Department of Immigration, has drawn much media attention. Ms Banerji was an avid tweeter, and under the twitter handle @LaLegale, published comments (sometimes critical) about the Australian Government’s immigration policy, the then Immigration Minister, the Prime...

We're here to help. Make an enquiry now.

If you have a question, want some more information or would just like to speak to someone, make an enquiry now to arrange a consultation for just $660 (including GST). Our Employment Law team will be in touch with you as soon as possible.

Call us on 1800 444 141