Are Employers Monitoring Employee’s Social Media on Black Friday Allowed to do so?

social media

With Black Friday come huge discounts, and with huge discounts come employee distractions with social media in the workplace. Even if you’re tied to your desk all day, there is always the internet and social media to while away the hours picking up bargains. Unsurprisingly today is not a day cherished by employers monitoring social media and getting forced to police employees who lack productivity and spend time on social media in the workplace rather than get on with business as usual. It is frustrating, yet few employers know how to manage the issue of social media and employees, including disciplining staff for wasting valuable time – is it misconduct or capability? A warning or something more serious?

Thankfully we’ve come up with this guide for employers wanting to know their rights when it comes to whether or not employers monitoring employees social media use in the workplace is an acceptable practice. Let us know if you have any questions.

Can an employer monitor staff social media activity in the workplace?

The boundaries have become blurred regarding social media use in the workplace.

Tight restrictions on social media use in the workplace may damage employee relations. Yet misuse of social media in a workplace can be a problem for many employers, negatively impacting an employee’s working activity and ability to carry out expectations.

Does this mean employers can legitimately claim access to monitor staff social media activity? Well, not exactly. Set out in the European Convention on Human Rights is the right for everyone to have their private life respected, including their correspondence. And yet, according to the Court of Appeal, the definition of ‘private’ is contextual, depending on the circumstances of particular cases and location, suggesting that any social media activity at work cannot get construed as entirely private. Likewise, suppose an employee has voluntarily befriended an employer on social media in a workplace environment on a personal social media account. In that case, it is unrealistic to expect the employer to turn a blind eye to the employee’s sharing posts on social media in the workplace. The workers have, in effect, given away their right to privacy, and social media monitoring in the workplace under these circumstances is not an issue.

Companies monitoring employees social media use in the workplace

Companies monitoring employees’ social media and prospective employees is a sensitive issue that can provoke polarised opinions. Here is my advice on how employers can strike a good balance of social media use in the workplace.

Social media is a valuable tool for businesses vetting new employees during recruitment when trying to fill a job vacancy. But be aware of the rules on anti-discrimination legislation (i.e. an applicant viewed on a Facebook profile picture as being in a wheelchair/ pregnant should not be refused an interview on this basis as claims for discrimination can still be made by potential applicants if discrimination has taken place during an application process).

Social media monitoring by employers is also a helpful tool for monitoring existing employees. It can often be a good source of evidence for an employer during investigations and disciplinary hearings. (there is nothing inherently wrong with this if the employee on social media platforms befriends you). I once dealt with a case where an employee had called in sick claiming that he had injured his leg; however, pictures on Facebook showing the employee skiing in France brought the genuineness of the injury/absence into question!! I have also dealt with a case whereby an employee phoned in sick during a hot summer’s day but then proceeded to post on personal social media accounts that he was having “fun in the sun in a paddling pool”!!

Is social media monitoring by employers a good idea?

Although there are benefits to monitoring employees social media, listening to conversations is a strict no-no and monitoring social media in the workplace can sometimes be detrimental. People use social media to express views and opinions. So if an employee has had a bad day at work or disagrees with their employer’s decision, they may go home and “rant” about this over social media. The employee in question may not realise that a post, tweet etc., could breach the restrictions within their employment contract if they post any confidential or inappropriate information that could potentially affect a good business reputation. Still, any defamation of a company name is libellous and requires corrective action by the employer.

Overall, companies monitoring social media should remember social media use is a personal activity. Employers should treat it this way (unless the employee brings the company’s name or colleagues into disrepute). Employers should never discriminate against employees because they share opinions that go against their personal beliefs or ideologies in posts via a social media accounts.

It is therefore imperative for employers to have a clear policy for the use of social media in the workplace to cover the following points:-

  • What social media covers, giving a non-exhaustive list of examples.
  • That the policy covers comments/tweets made outside of work should not; 1. bring the company into disrepute or reflect negatively on the company; 2—risk breaching confidentiality, or; 3. Create a breach of the copyright.
  • When posting online, any social media posts should not be of a nature which would cause us to lose faith in your employee’s integrity or risk customers losing confidence in the integrity of the company.
  • Do anything that could get considered discriminatory, bullying employees or customers through a social media post and breaching their company harassment policy.