Managing employee use of social media

Monitoring employees' social media usage


Monitoring must be undertaken appropriately and in accordance with relevant legislation, for example, Data Protection Act 2018, Human Rights Act 1998 and Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. Find more guidance on data protection and legal issues.

You must be able to justify monitoring staff at work. Employees have rights at work and if you do not treat them fairly they could take you to an employment tribunal or complain to the Information Commissioner's Office.

You must make staff aware that they are being monitored, and the reasons why eg by sending an email detailing that social media used by staff in the workplace will be monitored for inappropriate content.

You can monitor staff without their knowledge if you suspect them of breaking the law and letting them know about it would make it hard to detect the crime. You should only do this as part of a specific investigation and cease the monitoring when the investigation has ended.

Read more about monitoring staff at work. You should contact the Information Commissioner's Office for advice before you begin to monitor staff.

Covert surveillance

An employer should only use covert surveillance at work to investigate serious suspected misconduct such as theft or fraud. The human right to respect for private and family life is engaged by covert surveillance, unless it takes place in a public space where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. The human right to privacy is unlikely to be infringed if:

  • the employer has a serious and legitimate purpose, usually to investigate suspected fraud or theft
  • staff have been warned in advance that covert surveillance is a possibility, for example using signage, posters or a written policy, and the purpose of that surveillance has been explained
  • policies have been drawn up in consultation with staff and with the union if recognised
  • the employer only uses the results for the stated purpose and not any other purpose - for example, if a hidden camera is used to detect theft or fraud but instead reveals poor performance or misconduct, the results of the covert surveillance should not be used in a disciplinary over these minor issues
  • the results are kept confidential, secure and are not shared inappropriately
  • the monitoring is time-limited
  • its use is reactive ie a short-term response to legitimate suspicions of grave and serious misconduct such as theft as opposed to being permanently installed waiting to catch people out
  • alternatives have been considered  

Control social media usage through network security

There are ways to help to control the usage of social media sites and if needed, restrict or block access to certain sites.

These include using firewalls, web security tools and ensuring you have antivirus software to detect and prevent viruses.

Read more on how to protect your business online.