Dealing with Employee Theft – What to Do if You Suspect an Employee is Stealing

Stealing from your employers is not acceptable under any circumstances. Whether it’s just taking a few notepads and pens from the stationery cupboard to money going missing. Perhaps you are concerned about an attempt to defraud money. Any of these actions constitutes theft and is unacceptable behaviour regardless of motives.


Why Employees Steal

When caught stealing at work, research shows many employees say that the company made it easy to act dishonestly. They say the temptation was too good to resist, even though they knew stealing was wrong.

The surprising fact is that employees who have been caught stealing have not been under any real financial pressures. Many of them point to having seen other staff helping themselves to items and so believed it was acceptable behaviour. Perceived injustices, feeling undervalued, or the way they’ve been treated by bosses have also been cited as reasons for stealing at work.


Investigating Suspicions of Theft

In dealing with the possibility of theft, a company must seek to gather evidence that theft has happened. They must also be able to link that to a particular person. Accusing somebody of theft is a highly risky move to take unless you have hard evidence to back it up. Obviously, the likes of CCTV can help prove guilt in certain circumstances. Computer records are another useful tool in detection.

Other signs might be changes in an employee’s behaviour which are not in keeping with their usual performance. It must be said that this alone does not provide hard enough evidence to confront them. However, unless you’ve hard evidence, there is nothing you can do but keep a watchful eye on the person you suspect.


Seek Legal Advice Before Confronting an Employee

If an employee suspected of theft isn’t caught, once you have gathered enough evidence, you need to seek legal advice. If your advisor feels you have enough evidence to prove their guilt then you should have a disciplinary interview. It’s important that you conduct any interview with the person in a calm and rational manner. In the case of theft of monies or other high value items, you may wish to consider involving the police.

If you don’t feel an interview is appropriate yet it may be that you can lay ‘traps’ or ‘bait’ to see if more evidence can be gathered.


The Interview

If you opt for the interview, you need to tell them the reason why you wanted to see them. Explain the situation in a calm and rational manner and then give them the right to respond. At first, they might deny your claims, but the more hard evidence you can give, the more likely they’ll confess. If they don’t, you may need to seek further legal advice about pursing the matter in court.

Stealing in the workplace can be considered gross misconduct in some instances and can be a reason for dismissal immediately. If you have enough evidence from your investigation you should consider suspending the employee to conduct further investigations. Should there be enough evidence to support sacking the worker, it’s important that you follow proper process to dismiss them. If you don’t, they may have grounds to take you to the employment tribunal and seek compensation for unfair dismissal.

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