Dealing with Employee Theft in the Workplace

Feb 5, 2020


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Money is usually the first thing that comes to mind when you think of stealing in the workplace but it isn’t necessarily limited to cash. Employees can steal company information and pass on confidential information to other competitors. On a smaller scale, employees can steal supplies, property and time from the business by conducting their personal matters on company time. In a small business, stealing by a single employee can have a very negative impact on the business. A thieving employee certainly won’t advertise their illegal activities, so managers and business owners must be alert to any suspicious signs and be prepared to launch an investigation when and if necessary.

Once you have gathered all the information and have all the evidence it is important, as part of the investigation, to then have a meeting with the employee that is in question. The purpose of this meeting will be to is to present all of the evidence to the employee and to gather their response.  When you conduct this meeting it is important that you follow the procedural fairness requirements such as: 
Inviting the employee in writing to this meeting;
Giving the employee at least 24 hours’ notice of your intention to have this meeting and inviting the employee to bring a support person if they wish to do so. 

Once you’ve explored all possible avenues and are able to prove that the employee in question has stolen from the company the employer needs to decide whether to: 
Follow the disciplinary procedure and dismiss the employee 
Discipline the employee
Call the police and have the employee arrested, as it is a criminal offense to steal

What if you want the goods returned back to you?
If the employee has no intention of returning the goods to the employer this can be an issue as it’s not something that you can just take from an employee’s salary. While it may be frustrating, the best approach to getting your property back is first talking to the employee to see whether they’re willing to return what they’ve taken. Given you have the option of taking legal action against the employee to recover your property, as well as involving the police if you believe it necessary, making the (now or soon-to-be) ex-employee aware of this may prompt them to return your property to avoid this happening.

Tips for employers: 
Use IT security systems, surveillance and monitoring to detect and prevent employee theft
Document everything
Be discreet and fair until the investigation is concluded

Contact Uphando Forensic and HR services for assistance in writing an anti-theft policy, one that has your company’s best interest in mind.

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