Theft by staff can be a problem for many organisations, particularly those with tempting things available to people.
Ideally, employee relations are at a level where theft is not a problem, but from time to time rogue staff can take advantage of their trusted position.
In this blog we will take a look at five immediate steps you can take in the event of stealing by staff members.
1. Is it really stealing?
First, make sure the act committed by the staff member is actually theft and not something they expect is available to them. For example, stationery items might be freely available to staff, but if limits are exceeded then there is a case for theft. Be sure to communicate to all staff what is free and what is not.
If you are working with material or information that is open to theft, then communicate this to staff and indicate there are serious punishments, including when there is collusion or a cover up by more than one staff member. The more transparent you are the less likely you are to have to deal with theft in the first place.
In fact, think twice about using the word “theft” as it implies criminality and you don’t want to have that label stick around if the accusation turned out to be false. Use terms like “violating company policy” instead of “theft”.
2. Have a policy
Like most things that involve a dispute, it is best to have a policy so managers have a clear understanding of the course of action to take.
Don’t think employee theft matters will be clear cuts, or should be handled in an ad-hoc way. Have a consistent policy for dealing with theft and make sure the policy template is recognised, and can be applied by, all the key stakeholders.
Theft cases can result in dismissal, so it is important you follow a proper process that is consistent with what is expected of staff rights.
3. Gather the evidence
If you suspect employee theft then it is vital to have evidence to support it. Falsely accusing someone of theft and taking action without proof are themselves risky and can expose the organisation to litigation.
Gather as much evidence as possible and look for a clear motive for theft. In most cases there will be a path you can follow and a theft incident is probably not isolated.
Evidence can be in the form of a video recording or audit trail of a data transfer. And sudden changes in an employee’s behaviour, or sudden a departure, can also raise red flags for theft. Polonious specialises in case management and helps organisations ensure there is a clear trail of evidence that can be reviewed by all stakeholders.
4. Act swiftly
If you have strong evidence theft was committed then don’t delay notifying the employee of their contract termination. The longer you delay the more opportunity there is for further theft.
During the termination make sure all of the employee’s contractual rights are adhered to and follow your company’s policy. When dealing with a difficult situation the last thing you want is for it to become messier and expose your organisation to any counter claims.
Moreover, don’t withhold or deduct anything from the employee’s termination pay, or do anything to “punish” the person on the way out. As part of your policy, have a processing for dealing with terminations due to misconduct and make sure you are covering any potentially difficult contracts or third-party notifications.
5. Assess any police involvement
Depending on the severity, many theft cases result in the employee being terminated without further action.
In the event of a severe case of theft – particularly those involving company data or other asset that can land the organisation in hot water – then assess escalating it to the appropriate authorities.
A police report might also be needed if you are pursuing an insurance claim relating the incident. If you do need to get the police involved, keep it quiet to avoid concerning other staff and risking any reputation damage.
With the right work culture you can avoid troublesome incidents like theft, but if you do have to act on it, it is important to have the right processes and tools to support your side of the dispute.