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Employment and Migration Blog

Fired up over Facebook

Posted by Anna Ford on 13 Aug 2013

There was backlash last month from Melbourne firefighters when Fire Brigade management cut all employees right to check Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other websites down to just 60 minutes per shift. The move came after management found that the top 10 most visited websites were not work related sites.


The United Firefighters Union (UFU), on behalf of their members, have taken the case to the Fair Work Commission in an attempt to have management’s decision overturned. They assert there are a number of issues with the sudden implementation of new rules, without formal warning or room for discussion with employees. The main concern from the firefighters was that their existing workplace policy provided that limited internet use was "permitted so long as it did not affect [work] or breach internal policies."



The UFU also believed that it was actually those in management who were responsible for the excessive time spent on Facebook and social media sites as it was manangement who had full access to the pages. (See full article:


Management’s actions mirror the concerns of many companies who are losing hours of their workers’ time and productivity to social media sites. Some companies block social media sites from their staff’s web browsers all together, or only allow them to be accessible during their lunch breaks, as a way to address such issues.


This illustrates that it can be tricky implementing new rules and changing existing workplace conditions.


What rights do you have as an employer?


In most workplaces an employer has a right to implement changes to workplace policies and procedures, but to minimise the sort of problems that can arise as a consequence of any such changes – it is important to implement them in the right way, for example:




  • making sure you have a legal right to implement the change;



  • consulting and educating employees in relation to the changes and the reasons for them (and if your workplace is unionised, considering the unions involvement); and



  • having a transition period over which the change is gradually implemented.




If you have concerns about the time your employees are spending on social media and need some help with your options, or if you are looking at making some changes to traditional company policies or procedures, contact one of our experienced employment lawyers to discuss a strategy on (02) 9635 6422.



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