Social media and work - ten key tips


Earlier this month, the media reported on a doctor who made abhorrent comments online regarding rape. The doctor in question was found to have made numerous inappropriate and offensive comments on a Singaporean online forum.

The doctor has been stood down from the hospital he works for pending an investigation into his behaviour. He was also given a six-week suspension from practice, which has been widely criticised for being far too light.

The issue of Dr Lee’s online posting is a timely reminder regarding the use of social media. Dr Lee’s case represents an extreme example of how not to behave on social media (or in private for that matter).

We know that social media is being embraced at a rapid rate by our members to comment on health policy, politics and social issues. Medical Officers have taken to instagram, facebook, and twitter to comment in their personal capacity on a range of issues. It is therefore necessary to know how to use social media safely and professionally.

Here are 10 key tips for our members who are active on social media:

  1. Familiarise yourself with NSW Health Public Communications Procedures Policy Directive. Clause 9.2.2 contains the relevant provisions regarding personal use of social media by staff:
  2. Remember that even if you are posting or writing outside of work hours, controversial posts can still be found to be in breach of the Code of Conduct. Regardless of whether the posts are made outside of work hours or only viewed by a limited number of people, if the comments cause damage to the employer or breach an express term of an employment contract then they could be grounds for disciplinary action including a warning or in serious cases, termination of employment
  3. Be conscious of your language – be professional and respectful of others’ ideas and views
  4. Manage your profile’s privacy settings to ensure you know who is reading them
  5. Make it clear the views expressed on self-hosted private sites do not represent those of your employer
  6. Do not make comments about patients or post photos of patients as this may breach the Code of Conduct and patient privacy
  7. Remember that comments made on social media have a permanence about them. Consider whether you would be comfortable with posts in years to come
  8. Do not post complaints about colleagues or management on social media. Depending on what is said, this could amount to bullying conduct. If you have concerns you wish to raise about your employer or others, social media is probably not the space to raise them. Venting online is risky and could result in disciplinary action if the post damages your employer’s reputation. As a union, our role is to raise issues on behalf of our members so ASMOF may be better placed to raise those concerns on your behalf than through social media.
  9. Do not make comments in the capacity as an employee of NSW Health without prior approval
  10. With the above tips in mind, don’t shy away from engaging with social media! NSW Health staff have the right to enter in to public debates and comment on political, social or other issues. Just be clear that the comments and views are those of your own, not your employer’s.

This advice and comments are provided as general information and should not be construed as legal advice. Separate legal advice relating to the interpretation and implication of this article for your individual circumstances should be obtained.

ABC News story