Can my boss stop me using Facebook at work?

Yes. Your employer would be well within its rights to prevent you using its computer equipment and connectivity for personal use, be it sending personal emails, shopping online or using social media sites.

Some employers will be happy for you to make personal use of the internet during clearly defined periods, such as breaks or after hours. Others who want to structure work in more flexible ways may be happy for you to take occasional breaks when you wish, so long as you make up the time overall. It depends on the management style of your employer.

It may also be relevant to consider whether your employer permits you to use a work email address to register for social media services. Unless you are using Facebook officially as part of your job, it would be more appropriate to use a private email address.

In January 2016, the European Court of Human Rights said that an employer that read a worker’s Yahoo Messenger private messages sent while he was at work was within its rights. The employer had a blanket ban on personal use of its IT systems at work and the court ruled that it was not unreasonable for the employer to check the messages on the device, which it owned, to make sure the employee was working during working hours.

This harsh ruling underlines how important it is to know what rules are in place where you work and to follow them, even if they seem unreasonable.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.