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Three things you must prove before you discipline your employee for theft

by , 17 February 2014
When it comes to employee theft, the onus is on you to prove your employee committed the act. And you have to do this before you discipline your employee. Continue reading to find out the three things you need to prove.

'Employee theft is one of the most serious forms of dishonesty. If you can't trust your own employees not to steal, the trust relationship between employer and employee is breached,' says the Practical Guide to Human Resources Management.

It's for this reason that you're allowed to take action against your employee when he steals from you.

But, it's not that straightforward.

You first have to prove he stole from you and then hold a disciplinary hearing to dismiss him.


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You MUST prove these three things before you discipline for theft

#1: Prove the theft took place

You must prove the charge of theft. You'll use this evidence at your internal disciplinary hearing. You only have to prove theft on a balance of probability.

This means if the evidence shows theft by your employee as the most probable explanation, the balance of probability is your employee stole the goods in question.

Here are the three things you must prove to establish that your employee is guilty of theft:

  1. He stole company property (ownership)
  2. He had the goods in his possession
  3. He wanted to steal from you (intention)

#2: Prove he stole company property

Next, you must prove that the property or goods stolen is company property.

Just keep in mind that it's more difficult to prove company ownership when the goods have disappeared and can't be found.

In addition, your employee must have the goods in his possession.

Your employee must be found in possession of the goods (direct possession) or the goods must have been in her possession at some time (indirect possession).

Indirect possession is when you find the stolen goods on your employee's backpack, locker, car or at his home.


#3: Prove your employee wanted to steal from you

The Guide explains that arbitrators and the courts pay less attention to the value of the stolen goods and significantly more attention to the thieving employee's intention.

'The seriousness of the theft is linked directly to this intention because it goes to the root of the contract of employment of the relationship of trust between employer and employee, making the continued relationship intolerable for you.'

Since it's not easy to prove your employee's intention to steal, include an alternative charge of 'unauthorised possession of company goods' into your disciplinary code to cover yourself.

This way, if you find your employee leaving with company property, without a satisfactory explanation, you can charge him with unauthorised possession and can dismiss him if he's guilty.

Well there you have it. You can only discipline your employee for theft once you've proved these three things.

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