I think my employee is stealing from me. Can I sack them?

It can be SOOO frustrating to find out that a trusted member of staff is stealing from you 😡

You’ve worked super-hard to build your business and it’s heart-breaking to think that somebody could ruin things with their greed and selfishness.

But, despite how angry you might feel, you can’t simply sack a member of staff. You MUST follow a fair procedure. Otherwise, if they’ve been with you for longer than two years, you could be taken to an employment tribunal and sued for unfair dismissal.

Here’s some advice on what you should do. So, breathe deeply, grab a cuppa, and take a look 👇

THEFT IS A FORM OF GROSS MISCONDUCT

When an employee steals from you, it can be a form of gross misconduct. And while you can EVENTUALLY dismiss them, there are a few steps you need to take first.

The process for handling this type of scenario should already be outlined in your HR policies. So, it won’t come as a total surprise to the employee in question. Assuming you have a HR policy that is 🤔

HR policies are super-important in cases like this, because they prove you’ve been clear about what constitutes unacceptable behaviour, and what happens when the rules are broken.

THE DEFINITION OF STEALING

We all know what stealing looks like, right? As the Cambridge Dictionary defines, it’s when you “Take something without the permission or knowledge of the owner and keep it.”

However, some small business owners forget that workplace theft can come in many guises. Downloading a client’s address can be as serious as putting a hand in a cash register!

The definition of stealing includes:

💷 Stealing cash from a till

💾 Taking the personal details of a customer from your database and using it beyond work

📊 Fiddling timesheets to get more pay or leave

⌨ Pinching stock or company equipment

🍽 Wrongfully claiming for expenses

GATHER YOUR EVIDENCE 🔎

Imagine if you were accused of stealing. You’d be mortified, right? 😱

So, PLEASE 🙏 make sure you have your facts straight. What evidence do you have that your employee is stealing from you?

Remember, it’s your responsibility to gather the facts. In other words, collect a reasonable amount of evidence to justify having cause for concern.

KICK OFF YOUR DISCIPLINARY PROCEDURE 📑

As soon as possible, you need to let your employee know what the issue is, both verbally and in writing.

When you put pen to paper, your message needs to cover:

✔ What the problem is

✔ What the possible consequences are

✔ An invite to a disciplinary meeting or ‘hearing’ where they’ll have the opportunity to tell their side of the story and bring along a companion for support

✔ A reminder that they have a right to appeal

This is when you officially kick off your disciplinary procedures that are usually outlined in your HR policies. So, make sure you stick to them.

AT THE HEARING 👂

In a nutshell, this meeting – or ‘hearing’ as it’s often referred to – is where you give your employee an opportunity to respond, before taking any action to dismiss them.

Tips for handling this meeting:

✅ Work at pace to get the meeting in the diary, but make sure it’s is held at a time and date that the employee is likely to be able to make, while giving them enough time to prepare

✅ They can bring along a companion for support. For example, a colleague or a union rep

✅ In the meeting, you must state your case clearly, and give your employee an opportunity to state theirs too

✅ It’s worth bringing somebody along to take notes on your behalf

✅ Don’t make any decisions during the meeting, make your employee aware they’ll hear in writing ASAP

✅ Remind them that they can appeal your decision at any time

MAKE YOUR DECISION AND STICK BY IT 💪

After the hearing, you must now decide what you’re going to do:

🤔 Do nothing if there's no evidence 

🤔 Give them a warning?

🤔 Give them the sack?

You need to contemplate what you heard in the hearing and consider whether this is out of character for your employee.

Whatever you decide, get your decision in writing and send it to your employee as soon as you can – reminding them AGAIN that they can appeal your decision.

If they do want to appeal, you need to tell them who they appeal to (a peer of yours?). Step aside and let that nominated person set up another ‘hearing’ to help you decide what to do. The decision following the appeal hearing is final.

If you do decide to dismiss your employee, you need to put this in writing to them. Explain your reasons for sacking them and let them know when their contract of employment will end. When it comes to cases of gross misconduct, a notice period isn’t always required.

PRINCIPLES TO FOLLOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF 🔐

To avoid ending up in an employment tribunal, make sure you:

👉Follow a process that gives your employee an opportunity to respond to your claims – most HR advice is based on the Acas Code of Practice

👉Put everything in writing, including dates and decisions

👉Stick to your HR policies if you have them

👉Ask yourself if you’re being ‘fair and reasonable’ at every stage of the process

HOW TO MAKE ALL THIS REALLY EASY FOR YOURSELF 👌

If you’re a busy small business owner with little time, I’ve made things very simple for you.

Get your hands on…

🛒 My EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK – with over 30 pre-written HR policies to personalise, so that your employees are crystal clear about how you run your business. Including the behaviour you expect from them and what happens when that falls short.

🛒 My DISCIPLINARY TOOLKIT – a collection of pre-written letter templates, checklists, and forms to help you manage the disciplinary process in a fair and compliant way.

TO SUM THINGS UP THEN

😡 It’s maddening when an employee betrays your trust

🙅 However, even with gross misconduct, you can’t simply sack an employee

🔎 Accusing somebody of stealing is mega serious, so make sure you have evidence to back up your claims

⚠ It’s super-important you go down the disciplinary route to give your employee an opportunity to put their side of the story across, before making any decision

📑 Your employee should already know a little about your disciplinary process, if you’ve covered it in your HR policies

⚖ There are several principles to follow to avoid ending up in an employment tribunal

🛒 But, to make things super-easy, download my Employee Handbook and Disciplinary toolkit

Mandy Hamerla

Virtual HR Director & Leadership Mentor. I create game-changing HR & Hiring Strategies for ambitious small businesses in the UK and support you to lead your team with confidence. Check out my shop to download HR Templates & Contracts designed to make life easier.

www.modernhr.co.uk