Facebook and Personal Conduct

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Published by Preston Law on 02/04/2019

As a Local Government employee, there are many rules and regulations you must adhere to in the workplace.  One that is often forgotten however is the responsibilities of a Local Government employee pursuant to Section 13 of the Local Government Act 2009

Section 13 states:- 

13  Responsibilities of local government employees

  • All employees of a local government have the same responsibilities, but the chief executive officer has some extra responsibilities.
  • All employees have the following responsibilities—
  • implementing the policies and priorities of the local government in a way that promotes—

       (i) the effective, efficient and economical management of public resources; and

      (ii) excellence in service delivery; and

     (iii) continual improvement;

  • carrying out their duties in a way that ensures the local government—
  • discharges its responsibilities under this Act; and
  • complies with all laws that apply to local governments; and
  • achieves its corporate plan;
  • providing sound and impartial advice to the local government;
  • carrying out their duties impartially and with integrity;
  • ensuring the employee’s personal conduct does not reflect adversely on the reputation of the local government;
  • improving all aspects of the employee’s work performance;
  • observing all laws relating to their employment;
  • observing the ethics principles under the Public Sector Ethics Act 1994, section 4;
  • complying with a code of conduct under the Public
  • Sector Ethics Act 1994. 

Subsection 2(e) specifically states that a responsibility of an employee includes ensuring the employee’s personal conduct does not reflect adversely on the reputation of the Local Government.

Facebook and Personal Conduct 

It is naïve to believe that your personal Facebook account could not adversely affect the reputation of Council. Regardless of whether you have the most secure privacy settings, a profile is still able to be viewed by other employees who may be a friend and anything you publish, post, forward can be shared onto another feed. 

How many times have you seen a friend of a friend’s recent holiday pics or wedding announcements because of someone liking or commenting on that post?  It is essential that employees understand that any opinions, comments or endorsements made via Facebook or social media are as public as if you were making the same comments to the media or in a public forum. 

Councils are now exposed to claims such as online bullying and harassment and can also suffer reputational damage. Therefore, Section 13(2)(e) of the Local Government Act 2009, allows Council to take action against you if you have made inappropriate comments about Council or colleagues.

For example, if you have your place of work on your profile and like, share or comment on issues that are controversial or inconsistent with the views of Council, you could be bringing Council’s reputation into dispute.

How to Avoid Action

In order to protect your reputation and that of your employer we recommend you take the following steps: 

  1. Do not list your employer on social media – this is important for privacy reasons as well. 
  2. Refrain from posting photos in your uniform or work vehicle. 
  3. Do not make comments about your colleagues or employer on socials. 
  4. Refrain from liking or commenting on issues that are controversial or not politically correct. 

Remember it takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it.  If you think about that, you’ll do things differently – Warren Buffet.

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