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Bosses will 'absolutely crack it' if Aussie workers do this - even if they're not on shift

There's something Aussies are doing outside of work hours that could still land them in trouble, an employment lawyer warns.

Aussie workers are being warned to think twice before posting about their jobs on social media, especially if they are in their uniforms.

If you scroll through TikTok, it's not uncommon for a worker to pop up in your feed talking about an experience they've had on the job but, as social media blurs the line between what truly is private and public, social media users are being urged to check their contracts for potential issues.

It may seem harmless, and simple freedom of speech, but even the act of not changing out of your work uniform could prove dicey. Hall Payne Lawyers director Luke Forsyth explained to Yahoo Finance why Australians should take a moment to consider potential ramifications before posting about their job, boss, colleague or anything to do with their employment.

Bunnings and Woolworths workers on TikTok
Wearing a uniform on an official channel - like these Bunnings or Woolworths posts - is not likely to cause any issues for workers, but it's their own private accounts where problems can arise. (Source: TikTok)

Do you have a story? Email me at stew.perrie@yahooinc.com

'Not immune to disciplinary action because it's outside work hours'

Wearing your uniform means you are representing a company, whether you intend it that way or not, and many companies have clauses in their contracts to "regulate" how employee activity reflects on them.

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In the case of official accounts, where staff members are asked or encouraged to create content on behalf of the business, employees can get away with donning a uniform. But it can be activity on their private accounts that causes issues.

“It is pretty common, particularly with larger organisations, for them to have social media policies these days, which will try and regulate their employees’ use of social media to the extent that it may … damage the reputation of the business,” Forsyth said.

“If you are in a situation where you're interpreted - at least in the employer's view - as representing the organisation, they will absolutely crack it at something like that.

“You're never going to win an argument by saying, ‘Well, I've got the right to free speech’. Employers won’t engage with that argument at all because you're not immune from having disciplinary action taken against you just because what you did was outside of hours.”

Warning: Your out-of-work activity can land you in trouble

Forsyth said businesses had been dealing with this since the early days of social media and had a pretty good handle on what to expect from their employees these days. But it’s worth being aware of exactly what your company’s policy is before you hit upload.

“There's a delineation between stuff you do while you're at work and stuff you do outside of work … and your employer can regulate that during your working hours,” Forsyth told Yahoo Finance.

“When it occurs after work, which is where most of these cases actually occur … they occur with people going home, having a few beers and then blowing off steam on Facebook or something like that.

“Employers can regulate out-of-hours conduct to the extent that it might impact, or it has the potential to damage, the reputation of the business.”

So, if you’ve had a particularly rough shift and want to vent, it’s probably best to call a family member or friend launching into a tirade on Instagram or TikTok.

The typical punishment for breaking a social media policy is an official warning or termination, and there’s even a risk of defamation.

‘Take a step back’

Forsyth warned Aussies, particularly young people who might not even read their contract, that the risk of getting in trouble for posting about your job isn’t worth it.

“It's going to create a bunch of grief, which is probably disproportionate to the satisfaction you might get in the moment of posting and there is the real risk that you will be terminated,” he said.

“You just need to sort of take a step back. Yeah, the ‘likes’ are great. It might be something which, you know, is smart, funny but, if it's got the potential to impact your employment, you really need to think very carefully about it.

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