Go to top of page

Help employees assess the risks

Agencies are encouraged to have policies and guidance available to help employees assess risks and make sound decisions about their social media activity. As well as making the APSC Guidance available, agency-specific examples and case studies may be useful additional tools to help employees understand and assess the risks in their particular circumstances.

Encourage and enable discussion

Make clear to employees that they are encouraged to talk through their considerations about potential social media activity before deciding what to do. Make sure employees know they can talk to their manager, and know who else in the agency is available to discuss and assist in these matters.

Make sure employees are aware of official avenues for raising grievances and concerns, and for addressing interpersonal disputes.

Provide guidance and training to build capability in supervisors to understand and assess the risks of personal behaviour on social media and have useful discussions with employees about this.

Respond proportionately to the risk

Agencies should consider whether an employee’s online behaviour creates a genuine risk to the reputation of the agency or the APS, and should be respectful of employees’ right to be politically engaged.

Agency policies on social media engagement, and responses to employee behaviour online, should ensure they strike a fair and reasonable balance between preserving the integrity of APS and preserving employees’ right to engage online on matters of importance to them. If an agency has concerns about an employee’s online behaviour, the response should be proportionate to the risk the behaviour poses to public confidence.

  • In matters that are low-risk, it would generally not be appropriate for the agency to become involved.
  • In situations of moderate risk, it may be appropriate for the employee’s supervisor to discuss the matter with the employee, check their understanding of the risks and their policy and legislative obligations, and assess the likelihood of recurrence. Agencies should ensure supervisors have the capability to do this effectively.
  • In higher risk cases, it may be more appropriate to investigate the matter as a suspected breach of the Code of Conduct in accordance with agency s.15(3) procedures.

An agency’s approach to employees’ social media engagement should be proportionate to the risk posed by a particular behaviour to public confidence in the agency or the APS, with the ultimate aim of maintaining or restoring that confidence. 

Further information:

Further guidance can be obtained by contacting the Ethics Advisory Service on 02 6202 3737, or email ethics [at] apsc.gov.au.

Last reviewed: 
7 September 2020