I have a question that I hope someone can help me deal with or share experiences.

A line manager has come to me and let me know that an employee had called in sick on Monday which is fine. However she was pictured on social media attending a dance class and is very annoyed, she would like to discipline the employee.

Is the line manager allowed to do this, also it was outside of working hours but still on the same day she was supposed to be sick and unable to attend work.



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  • Hi All,

    Thanks for the input and I will put some information on how I dealt with this.

    Sarah - In answer to all your questions...

    what was the reason why the employee was not at work? she had called in sick with a headache but attended a dance class that she runs.

    In addition what brought the manager's attention to the social media? Another colleague had brought this to her attention.



    • Hi Andrew

      Thanks for the above, I can understand why the line manager is frustrated if the employee has called in sick but then goes on to run a dance class.  That said the headache may have ceased by the time she attended this especially if it was later that day.  I would also tread carefully if there is an underlying history of anxiety and depression, that said this does not mean we can not discuss this with the employee.

      Basically what we are saying here is that we do not believe that you were genuinely ill, and it is then up to the employer to demonstrate why this is the case.

      In terms of the above, if another colleage has brought it to the attention of the manager, and the colleage legitimately has access to the employee's social media then I think I would go down the 'shot across the bows' route.  Where we make the employee aware that this is known to the Company.

      As Leanne and Chrissy outline below this could be raised in a return to work interview and that is has been brought to the manager's attention.  The manager could explain that whilst they appreciate the headache could have resolved itself by later on in the day, that they are flagging this as if this were not the case this would need to be invetigated further.

      I hope this helps


  • Hi Andrew

    Need a bit more information on this one which you may not be able to share due to data protection e.g. what was the reason why the employee was not at work?

    For example where an employees has been signed of for depression / anxiety they may still go on holiday as the GP may recommend this would help. 

    In addition what brought the manager's attention to the social media?

    KR Sarah

  • Hi Andrew

    I agree with Chrissys points below. I also don't think there is a right answer to give, as it all depends on the circumstances.

    The reason the employee gave for being off sick is important here. Does her reason for being off mean she couldn't attend the dance class? For example, if she was off sick due to not being able to walk but was then seen dancing, this could ring alarm bells. Also, if she is off with stress or depression, this activity could actually aid her recovery and therefore doesnt need to be questioned.

    Also, have you seen the evidence on social media yourself or have you heard this through a colleague? If the employees social media profile is set to private and you've seen it and are not friends, the employee would question how you know and then could uncover other issues such as snooping (which I think Sarah has recently posted an article on).

    If this was the first instance, I would do a return to work interview with her to learn more about the reasons for being off and to see if the company can do anything to help. I'm presuming it was also just for 1 day?

    I would also check with the line manager to see if the employee requested time off on that day but was rejected and also if she has annual leave remaining. There is a possibility she ran out of annual leave to take so took a sick day instead. If this turns out to be the case, i would have a conversation with her about this.

    Good luck in resolving the issue. I would be interested to hear how you handle the situation.


  • Hi Andrew,

    Do you know the reason she gave for being off sick? And how was she spotted on social media- is she friends with someone from work, or was the line manager snooping?

    I don't know the correct answer here, but I would probably say that taking disciplinary action might be a bit severe in this case. The thing is, how much control should you have over what people do in the personal lives? Should Line Managers be spying on their employees social media? Also, as you say, this was outside of working hours. If she'd been seen going to the gym or something during working hours it might be different.

    It's probably too late for this now, but if the same thing happens in the future I would suggest conducting a back to work interview and perhaps mentioning it then, but I think you'd have to be really careful.

    Also take into account the reason for the day off. If she suffers with mental health problems then social activities, like a dance class, could actually be a helpful way to feel better (as could going to the gym).

    I hope you're able to resolve the issue.


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