Employers: how should you handle work place theft?

According to a recent survey of employees, 1 in 4 admitted stealing from their employer, some of whom said they had stolen over £1000.00 worth of items. Top of the stolen items list were staplers, paper and pens. The level of theft is perhaps not much of a surprise given that most employers allow their employees to take whatever items they want from the office stationary cupboard as and when they want without asking any questions – the system is therefore open to abuse. If an employer wants to stop the free for all, they can get their employees to sign for each and every single item of stationary they require but this is highly impractical. An alternative, slightly more practical, approach is to put someone in charge of handing out stationery – this might seem completely over the top but it would be likely to reduce the number of business’ items being taken by employees for their own personal use. Stealing from an employer is ordinarily a disciplinable offence and the theft of items would at the very least justify a warning. However, if an employer wants to clamp down in this area and stop items being taken without their permission, they must set very clear guidelines on what will and will not be tolerated – for example, an employer might adopt a zero tolerance policy or they might allow some very minor transgressions before disciplinary action is initiated. The employees do however need to know where the boundaries are. Any guidelines must also be applied consistently by an employer, particularly in terms of status – for example, a senior manager must be treated no more or no less favourably than a junior employee where a theft has taken place.

If you require any employment advice or representation, whether you are an employer or employee, feel free to contact Alan Davidson for a consultation: 01756 692 869.


Alan Davidson,
Partner, Employment