Unfortunately, employee theft is an issue that many employers face. Theft may range from an employee taking home workplace stationary to millions of dollars. The theft that you are dealing with may fall somewhere in between these two extreme examples. Regardless, you will still need to manage the problem. This article sets out some strategies to manage:

  • minor employee theft; and 
  • more serious employee theft. 

How Do I Find Out if an Employee Is Stealing? 

If you suspect an employee has been stealing from you but you cannot prove it, you should investigate before accusing them of anything. For example, you could:

  • interview witnesses (i.e. other employees); 
  • search for evidence of the theft; and
  • review CCTV/surveillance footage.

You should keep your investigations as confidential as possible. Other employees should not find out about the allegations before you can prove them. A false allegation of theft against one of your employees could cause serious problems in your workforce. If you are relying on surveillance footage, you will also need to make sure there is a valid surveillance policy in place and that you have complied with workplace surveillance laws

If you are convinced your employee has been engaging in significant theft, you should contact the police. The police can investigate the issue as they would any other allegation of theft. 

If you cannot find evidence of the theft, ensure that you interview the employee properly and ask for an explanation for the alleged theft before you take further action. 

How Do I Manage Minor Employee Theft? 

If an employee has been involved in a minor theft, such as taking office stationary, you are unlikely to be in a position to immediately terminate their employment. In this case, you should first issue the employee with a verbal or written warning. If the theft continues, it might amount to serious misconduct. 

Before taking any action, however, you should consult your employment agreement. You might have agreed to specific enforceable actions for a number of workplace issues. The business’ employee handbook or code of conduct will also be a useful resource in these circumstances. You may be able to automatically dismiss the employee if there is a clause in the employment contract allowing you to do so. 

How Do I Manage More Serious Employee Theft?

The National Employment Standards (standard rules that apply to all employees) allow you to terminate an employee without notice if they have committed serious misconduct. 

The question for you to determine as the employer is whether the theft is serious enough to constitute serious misconduct. You should consider:

  • whether the conduct occurred inside or outside of the workplace;
  • the value of the stolen property;
  • the seniority of the employee; and
  • how the theft has affected the business. 

If you can prove your allegations of serious theft, you may be able to terminate the employee for serious misconduct. In that situation, the employee will not be entitled to notice. You will still be required to pay out any annual leave that has accrued, however. 

Key Takeaways 

As an employer, you should not tolerate employee theft in your workplace. Your response to any theft you discover will depend on the seriousness of the offence. For minor theft, such as an employee taking stationary, you should investigate your suspicions and then issue a verbal or written warning. If you discover more significant theft, you may have grounds to terminate the employment. You should always consult the employment agreement and speak with an employment lawyer before you take serious action. If you need help dealing with a workplace issue, contact LegalVision’s employment lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a tech-driven, full-service commercial law firm that uses technology to deliver a faster, better quality and more cost-effective client experience.
George Turnbull

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