Dealing with workplace theft can be a confronting and difficult thing for businesses to deal with, however knowing a few management strategies could help you make a stance on workplace theft if it’s happening in your workplace…

An employee contacts you to inform you that they saw a manager put four bottles of wine (kept for clients) in her handbag, walk out of the office and jump into her car. Or you review your books and something just doesn’t seem right to you – the figures aren’t adding up.

Australian Federal Police have released figures indicating that around 70% of business fraud losses are due to employees, and this costs businesses in excess of $1.5 Billion per annum. It also appears to be on the rise, with KPMG indicating that the cost of workplace fraud tripled from 1997 to 2012.

When it comes to theft in the workplace it is always a good idea to think like a boy cookiejarscout and ‘Be Prepared’. It helps to ensure there are clear policies on workplace theft, stating that it is considered serious misconduct, and which outline the process that will be followed. However, if you find yourself in the situation where someone has stolen from you – and you don’t have a policy – there are a few steps and principles you should still follow.

What do I do?

Firstly, conduct a formal investigation to determine the facts.

The aim of a workplace investigation is actually very simple – to work out if something occurred.

That’s It? Yep, that’s it. However, there are many steps to running an investigation that is in line with an employer’s legal obligations and the concepts of procedural fairness, and these steps can mean the difference between a successful dismissal and an unfair dismissal claim.

While theft is undoubtedly a very serious issue, the fact that theft occurred will not automatically protect you from an Unfair Dismissal claim. If a claim is lodged the Fair Work Commission will look at the investigative and disciplinary processes followed, and if the process is deemed to be unfair – even if the commission believes the theft took place – a claim may be upheld. Here are a few hints:

Appoint an investigator

One of the first steps is appoint a person who is responsible for the investigation. It is vital to ensure that they are a neutral party and have no relationship to the investigation. It may be worthwhile looking for an experienced investigator outside of the organisation to assist.

Follow Procedural fairness

Remember – we are all innocent until proven guilty. Ensure that the employee is given the opportunity to respond to all allegations and present any mitigating factors, that they are given advance notice of any meetings and the opportunity to bring a support person.

Gather the facts & evidence

Evidence may include any security footage (make sure employees know that they are being filmed), witness statements, bank statements, transaction records, emails, documents – the list goes on.

Determine the outcome of the investigation

Answer one simple question:

Would a reasonable person, considering all the facts, determine on the balance of probabilities the theft did occur?

Determine if Disciplinary Action is required.

In most cases a finding of theft will result in an employer taking Disciplinary Action. Theft may be considered Serious Misconduct and therefore could warrant Instant Dismissal (where the employment is terminated effective immediately). Depending on the organisation the actions may also include dismissal or written warnings. It is important to ensure that correct procedural fairness is followed when taking any disciplinary action.

Criminal Charges

In addition to the employment side of the issue, theft is also a criminal matter and an employer also has the option to pursue criminal charges. In this case you will need to contact the police as soon as the theft comes to light so they are able to advise you on the necessary steps to take for a criminal investigation.

As you can see, dealing with theft in the workplace isn’t always easy or black and white. If you would like help with these issues or with an investigation call HR Gurus, it’s what we do!


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