Workplace Theft

MANAGING WORKPALCE THEFT

We illustrate below some KEY CONSIDERATIONS when dealing with employee theft matters: 

1. Assess: 

1.1. the gravity and the frequency of theft; 

1.2. its potential impact on your business; 

1.3. the nature of the job itself; 

1.4. the extent of proof available and if investigating could provide more proof; 

1.5. the employee’s past record, how instances of theft have been handled in the past and whether the police or other authorities become involved. For example, an employee who steals a few items of stationery might only justify receiving a warning notice in the first instance, but where an accountant or manager has control of large amounts of company funds defrauds the employer, summary dismissal would usually be justified. 

2. There needs to be a sound investigation procedure that does not place the business at risk, of a defamation or unfair dismissal claim. 

3. Act only on the basis of firm evidence. This may include statements by witnesses, cash register and other financial records, video surveillance footage, Audit trails, Social Media records etc 

4. You must be able to prove that theft has occurred. The normal standards of proof applicable to court cases apply. 

5. The employee must be aware that the type of theft is prohibited and will lead to consequences if it occurs. This can be communicated via the initial employment letter or contract, company policies, past warnings and notification that surveillance of employees will occur. 

6. You should not just suspect a theft without investigating the matter. If you take action and the employee’s explanation later is plausible, or cannot be proven to be false or implausible, the employee may have grounds for action against the business. 

7. Note also that you cannot force employees to incriminate themselves. 

8. Don’t consider situations that are not backed up by evidence and followed through to the end. A seemingly clear-cut case of employee dishonesty may actually be the result of a well thought out conspiracy among several employees or it may be a complete misunderstanding due to failures in internal procedures, communication or record keeping. 

9. Consider the legal implications 

10. As the process of confirming and documenting proof of theft proceeds, consider how the offence relates to the law. Our investigators can assist with this. 

11. This is important because you will be able to gather information that will assist in prosecution. When the evidence is enough to prosecute, we will advise you we have sufficient evidence. 

12. Again, it is important to emphasise that you must have earlier made it clear to all employees that theft is prohibited and that the consequences of it may include dismissal and notification of relevant authorities. 

13. Again, you need to avoid accusations of entrapment or a set-up. These steps allow for an orderly process to take place, and will assist in protecting the interests of the business. 

14. AT ALL TIMES keep written documentation concerning the theft of property by an employee, including: the time and date; property missing; who had access; and any other relevant circumstances. Our investigators will initiate a full chain of custody system for evidence. 

15. There are certain rules with which you need to comply when interviewing an employee suspected of theft or Misconduct. These rules protect employees’ civil liberties. Brassets Investigators follow these rules and relevant laws when interviewing employees. 

16. If an employer has reasonable grounds to suspect a specific employee of misconduct, then the employer must have the employee’s consent before proceeding with questioning. 

17. Employers must inform employees of their rights before an interview. These include the right to a witness and the right to remain silent. 

18. During an interview regarding an alleged theft or misconduct, an employee does not have to admit to committing the theft even if he or she did so. Nor is the employee obliged to inform his or her employer about the involvement of any other employees. 

19. Admissions made during questioning should be made voluntarily and not as a result of threats or intimidation. The witness can also verify whether a confession was provided voluntarily or under duress. 

20. The employee’s witness may be a union representative, a legal representative or another employee. The employer may object to the employee’s witness on the ground that the employer may also wish to question that person in relation to the incident. 

21. As with all performance-related interviews, Brassets investigators keep a detailed record of what took place at the interview. We ask the employee and any witnesses to sign copies of the interview record at the completion of the interview. 

22. We advise the employee what action will follow the interview, eg further investigations, notification of authorities, disciplinary action, dismissal, etc. on sometimes we will suspend the interview for 24 hours whilst the employer considers the facts and considers what actions they deem appropriate. We can discuss and assist the employer regarding their options. 

23. A case against an employee may fail if the employer has been inconsistent in its treatment of employees. In particular, if thefts by other employees in the past have been condoned or punished with no more than a ‘slap on the wrist’, an employee who is dismissed for a similar theft may be able to argue that he/she was treated unfairly. This applies equally to matters of Misconduct. 

Call Brassets on 1300 080 200 for a no charge consultation


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