With the growing trend of vlogs, blogs and other social media posts, it is not surprising that on average, a quarter of employers have caught an employee out on a lie about being sick via social media. Unfortunately, lies about being sick are not the only topic that employees are being caught out on. They are also being caught out for other serious matters such as theft, fraud, incarceration, bullying and harassment, and alcohol and drug abuse.

The main question employers ask is, what can I do about it?

Can I check my employee’s social media?

There is no law that prevents an employer from looking at publicly available information on an employee’s social media account. Under privacy legislation however, an employee has the right to lock down their social media accounts as much as they like. There is also no requirement for an employee to accept a friend request from their employer or accept a request from their employer to gain more access to their social media accounts.

How will I know if an employee is lying to me if I can’t see their social media?

The most common way an employer finds out that their employee has been dishonest is via other employees in the business. These employees are called “whistle-blowers”.

It is important to note that whistle-blowers have the right to make an anonymous disclosure and must be protected by the business. This means that they cannot be disciplined, terminated or be bullied or harassed as a result of the disclosure. Having a good whistle-blower policy in place will help employers encourage a culture of whistle-blowing. Vexatious or fraudulent disclosures however, should be handled appropriately and as soon as possible.

What can you do if you receive a report that an employee is lying?

If an employee makes an anonymous report to their employer that a colleague is lying due to posts on social media about the reasons for their absence for example, it is important to take it seriously and acknowledge the employee for bringing it to their attention.

For example, an employee reports that a colleague who is supposed to be on bereavement leave, posted on social media that they are holidaying on the Gold Coast with images of them at one of the theme parks. The first course of action is to conduct an investigation.

An investigation may include obtaining written statements from other employees, getting copies of the social media posts, and finally calling the employee in for a meeting.

It is important to note that when calling an employee in for an investigation meeting, they should be offered the opportunity to bring a support person and be provided access to any EAP (Employee Assistance Program) services available.

In this instance, during the meeting with the employee, the employer should acknowledge the death of the their loved one and offer any support. The employer will then disclose the anonymous report received and invite the employee to respond.

Why should I invite the employee to respond?

This step is crucial. Although an employer’s initial reaction may be ‘on the attack’, it is important to take a step back and look at the situation objectively.

For example, the employee on bereavement leave who was caught posting about their holiday on the Gold Coast comes to an investigation meeting. During the meeting, the employee provides a copy of the death certificate and the funeral order of service. It is ascertained during the meeting that the funeral was at a cemetery on the Gold Coast and the employees’ grandmothers’ final wishes were for the family to spend the day at a theme park after the service.

On this occasion, the employee’s posts on social media were valid and it came down to a simple misunderstanding.

What if the employee is found to be lying during an investigation?

If during the investigation, the reports about the employee were found to be correct, the employer should refer to their performance management and termination policy for guidance.

Check out our previous blogs, How to Deal with an Employee Who Is Always Calling in Sick, Documenting Performance Discussions, Why Communication is Important in Managing Poor Performance for some more information about managing employee performance and absences.

If you’re looking for assistance in managing workplace investigations, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team, via the chat box here or calling us on 08 6150 0043.

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