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Ask the expert – should employees be posting on social media after phoning in ill?

Social media has created a cultural grey area when it comes to health and wellbeing, but does phoning in sick mean employees are too poorly to post online? Laura Kearsley, of East Midlands-based law firm Nelsons, answers important questions around how employers should approach the situation if they suspect someone is pulling a ‘sickie’.

‘Faking it’ – where do employers stand?

Last year, the number of sick days taken in the UK by workers fell to its lowest rate on record, but, with a whole day dedicated to pulling sickies (National Sickie Day – the first Monday in February), it is clear there are a number of Ferris Bueller-inspired escapades still occurring nationally.

However Laura Kearsley, specialist Employment Law Partner at Nelsons, says it’s important to proceed with caution as it’s a common misconception that employees who are off work ill must lock themselves away and not venture outside.

Here, Laura gives her three top tips for employers who suspect their employee may be faking an illness due to their social media usage.

What should I do if an employee has phoned in sick, but is still posting photos online?

1 – Don’t jump to conclusions, social media is not always instant

Laura says: “It can be easy to jump to conclusions when an employee is posting online. Photos are not always posted on social media at the time they are taken and some illnesses are more visible from photos than others.

“For example, if an employee phoned in sick with a broken leg and then checked into a ski resort, posting a photo of them on the slopes later that day, that would appear to be convincing evidence that their illness was not genuine.”

2 – Not all illnesses need rest

Laura says: “Unlike physical illnesses, if an employee is off due to stress and they post a photo of themselves on a walk in the countryside, this is not necessarily inconsistent with the illness they have reported to you. In fact, it may be beneficial for that employee to be getting some fresh air and exercise rather than staying at home.”

3 – Investigate with an open mind

Laura says: “In each case of sickness, it is important to investigate first without assuming the employee has been dishonest. If you have seen social media posts of them that you think are inconsistent with the information they have given you, ask them about it, perhaps as part of a return to work meeting or welfare meeting, as they may have a legitimate explanation.”

For more detail and insight on how to manage employees who may be faking an illness, please read the full blog here.

Nelsons provides support to businesses, individuals and families with their legal and investment needs. Nelsons’ experience and depth of resource has also enabled them to offer services to other solicitors through Fusion Legal – a mutually-beneficial referrals and support network for law firms. The firm is recognised by the leading, independently researched Legal 500 and is recommended by them in more than 20 practice areas.

By Laura Kearsley

Laura qualified as a solicitor in 2005 and joined Nelsons in 2012. Laura has a strong reputation in all aspects of employment law and has particular experience of developing HR support services for businesses. She has advised on employment law matters since qualifying as a solicitor.