Social media comes with pitfalls for employers and employees. We are often asked whether legally employers can monitor social media and then rely on what they uncover from that monitoring.

First and foremost social media is usually public as the individual in this case unfortunately discovered. Their prowess as a semi-professional footballer was displayed on social media and Sky Sports – at a time when they said they were unable to work. The court and the defendant were able to rely on this information to defeat a claim for personal injuries. In an employment context, if an employer is aware of something on social media, or made aware, they are generally able to rely on that information. This includes where they are given the information anonymously.

However, this comes with a warning. Employers should not normally trawl social media looking for reasons to discipline employees. Monitoring should be specific and proportionate. So usually it is limited to where an employer is made aware of something or has a legitimate reason to suspect misconduct. An example is where an employer suspects an employee is not being truthful about their absences or the reason for their absence, they may check social media. This happened in a case I acted in, where two employees returned back to work late from holiday saying they missed the ferry. Unfortunately for them, their social media accounts showed pictures of them at a football game that night 300 miles away. The employer dismissed them for gross misconduct and the Tribunal upheld those dismissals.

So employers can rely on social media, but need to be careful to make sure they are doing so lawfully and proportionately.