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Protect your business from employee theft

A staggering 82% of UK workers have admitted to stealing from the workplace. In many cases, it is a case of ‘borrowing’ an envelope or a biro. But even thefts of individually inexpensive items can add up to significant sums over time. And in some cases the thefts are far more serious – and yet surprisingly common. According to a recent survey, 25% of employees have taken a laptop home and not returned it. So what can you do to protect your business from this kind of theft?

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A staggering 82% of UK workers have admitted to stealing from the workplace. In many cases, it is a case of ‘borrowing' an envelope or a biro. But even thefts of individually inexpensive items can add up to significant sums over time. And in some cases the thefts are far more serious – and yet surprisingly common. According to a recent survey, 25% of employees have taken a laptop home and not returned it. So what can you do to protect your business from this kind of theft? Types of theft to watch out for: Outright theft of cash from a cash till Forgery of company cheques Theft of inventory items Theft of equipment Employees granting a friend or other person a discount at the register or charging for fewer items than the person has actually bought. Theft of information. Internal theft of information has become an increasingly serious problem for employers, especially since huge amounts of information are commonly stored in computer files. Always check references Even if you are just employing some temporary staff, always check references. In a hurry to find staff, some employers will just go on a 'gut' reaction or assume that because someone is a friend or relative of a current trusted employee, the same must be true of the new prospect. Sometimes that theory works; sometimes it doesn't. Establish a theft and security policy Establish a clear policy on theft and security and distribute it to all employees. The policy should clearly explain that such activities can lead to summary dismissal and reference to the police. Provide for a search and detention facility within your policy. Employers must make sure that the policy sets out how and when the search will take place. Remember that an employee's dignity must not be abused. Examine and update financial controls by implementing the following: Keep chequebooks locked up and restrict access to cash and cheques Divide financial responsibilities among several members of staff Control cash flow and document accurately where money is spent Make regular deposits of cash in banks rather than allowing them to pile up in cash tills Check all invoices to make sure they match what was delivered and to ensure that vendors were paid Sign in and out materials such as laptops. High-value items should be closely monitored Consider the introduction of a security system: Britain is allegedly the most heavily monitored nation on earth. We have all become used to, but not comfortable with, the constant intrusion of the CCTV camera. Where an employer wants to use this type of surveillance remember there may be requirements for registration dependent on the type of camera used. Employers can consider the use of covert cameras only in situations where they have a genuine belief that theft is ongoing and that the use of the camera may be beneficial in catching the perpetrators. The use of cameras for this purpose should be short-lived and cameras should not be used in inappropriate situations (such as toilet cubicles or areas where staff are changing clothing). If you have genuine grounds for suspecting a particular employee, then using surveillance of that employee may be justified. Cameras can be used following consultation. Employees will frequently cease their activities once they know that the activities could be observed. Remove the opportunity to steal Establish a system of checks for key processes that ensures different people are performing tasks and can routinely check one another's work. More information If you suspect theft and decide to investigate, do so thoroughly and factually. Making an accusation toward an employee can permanently damage relationships not only with that employee but also with those with whom the individual works closely. Be sure you follow the statutory disciplinary procedures to ensure that standards are enforced correctly and in line with legislation. There are now severe penalties in place for not following statutory disciplinary and dismissal procedures. Failure to use and follow these procedures will result in an automatically unfair dismissal in the event that there is a subsequent claim at an employment tribunal. If in doubt, phone the FPB's membership helpline on 0845 130 1722. Click here to download the FPB's Disciplinary Procedure, taken from our Employment Guide for 2008.

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