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 on your payroll could ruin things with their greed and selfishness.
But, despite how angry you might feel, you can’t immediately sack employees on the spot. You MUST follow the procedure set out by law. Otherwise, you could be taken to an employment tribunal and sued for unfair dismissal (if they’ve been employed for longer than two years).
Here’s some advice on what you should do, if you don't have human resource management in your business. So, breathe deeply, grab a cuppa, and take a look. 👇
The definition of stealing
We all know what stealing is, 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
Steps for dealing with employee theft
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 to comply with employment law.
The process for handling this type of scenario should already be outlined in your HR policies, so it shouldn't be 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.
Here's the steps to take disciplinary action.
STEP 1: GATHER YOUR EVIDENCE 🔎
Before you start making allegations of theft, make sure you gather the evidence. What proof do you have that your employee is stealing from you, for example was it caught on CCTV, did a colleague witness it etc?
Remember, it’s your responsibility to gather the facts. In other words, collect a reasonable amount of evidence to justify having cause for concern.
STEP 2: 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 specific allegation is
✔ What the possible consequences are
✔ The date, time and place of the disciplinary meeting or ‘hearing’ where they’ll have the opportunity to tell their side of the story
✔ Their right to bring a companion, which would be a work colleague or a trade union representative
Follow what's written in your company disciplinary procedure.
STEP 3: HOLD THE DISCIPLINARY 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.
STEP 4: MAKE YOUR DECISION 💪
After the hearing, you must now decide what you’re going to do:
🤔 Do nothing if there's no evidence.
🤔 Give them a formal warning?
🤔 Fire them for theft (gross misconduct)?
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 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, but check what's written in their employment contract.
STEP 5: GIVE THEM THE RIGHT TO APPEAL
You must give them the opportunity to appeal the decision, as this is a legal requirement.
If they do want to appeal, you need to tell them the details of how to do this. The decision following the appeal hearing is final.
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 and procedures 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 (a code of conduct). Taking preventative measures to protect your business is important when dealing with employee issues.
🛒 My DISCIPLINARY TOOLKIT – a bundle of pre-written letter templates, checklists, and forms to help you manage the disciplinary process in a fair and compliant way.
Here's a helpful list of my most popular resources...
- Take the Leadership Quiz to uncover your natural leadership style.
- Watch my free leadership masterclass to learn how to build a high performing team.
- Grab my free HR Guide to help you avoid costly legal mistakes.
- Access HR Templates here. Use code BLOG10 at the checkout to get 10% off your first order.
- Book a free consultation with Mandy here, to learn more about us working together.