Q&A - How can I stop staff browsing Facebook in company time?

Q: I run a medium sized company where all staff have access to the internet.  Members of staff are allowed to access the internet for work purposes and during their lunch hour.  Although we have a social media policy I have been made aware that at least one member of staff is browsing facebook and other similar sites during the working day, outside of the lunch hour.  What can I do about this as it is causing considerable upset among the staff?   

A: Your biggest problem will be upsetting staff – either those complaining or those complained about. You should investigate without unreasonable delay to establish the facts for yourself. You may be able to obtain the internet history of the individual in question. One aspect to consider is whether any company or customer data may have been sent or published, as this could have consequences for the company. Data protection or confidentiality breaches could potentially be a very serious matter which could justify immediate suspension.

If this is just a general moan rather than anything particularly serious the best course of action is to re-state the ground rules. Remind everyone of the rules to draw a line in the sand. Everyone will know where they stand and anyone who crosses the line in future will know what to expect.

If it is serious, then you should look at your disciplinary procedures and take appropriate advice and action. In most cases an informal warning combined with a company-wide reminder on the importance of complying with the social media policy will suffice. These are always difficult issues to deal with in- house so always consider using the ACAS website and running things past your company’s employment solicitor.

Robert Williams

Robert Williams

Partner and Complaints Handler

Partner and Head of the Civil Litigation, Personal Injury and Dispute Resolution team in Wrexham