7 Aug 2015
While the vast majority of employees do the right thing, employee theft affects business-owners everyday.  Suspicious activity needs to be dealt with swiftly, firmly and fairly.
Employees may steal large amounts of money, workplace supplies, equipment or intellectual-property.  Just as serious are employees who steal by completing inaccurate time-sheets, claiming reimbursement for items not purchased, fraudulently transferring funds or misusing a corporate credit card, cheques or taxi vouchers.  
Any form of stealing is a criminal offence and police should be properly involved when necessary.
Caught Red Handed

Even if you literally catch someone with their hand in the till, or on camera late at night removing gear from your office, as an employer you still need to ensure you follow the rules of procedural fairness. 
While you may need to immediately call police, proceeding further with a knee-jerk sacking is not advisable.  This is because without due process employers run the risk of claims for unfair dismissal, breach of employment contract and even defamation. 
Suspend and Investigate

Allegations of stealing are usually serious enough to warrant suspension while an investigation is conducted.  Suspension ensures the employee does not damage the business, morale or coerce or influence potential witnesses. 
Suspensions can be either paid or unpaid and can be for any period reasonably necessary to investigate and make a decision about what – if any – disciplinary action needs to be taken.  Relieving the employee of their normal duties also ensures they can provide a full response to allegations within a short period of time.
In any meeting where allegations are being made or discussed employees should be offered to have a support person with them, and if possible the employer should also endeavour to have more than one representative present as a witness.
Until the investigation is complete employers should ensure that the allegations are kept as confidential as possible in the circumstances.
As soon as possible an official letter should be sent or handed to the employee, and should:
• provide as much detail as possible about the allegations (including any evidence),
• explain the intended investigation process (which may be to simply await the outcome of a police investigation),
• outline what the consequences are if the allegations are proved (including whether police may be involved at a later date),
• request a written response from the employee by a particular date,
• advise whether the employee is suspended, for how long and with or without pay, and
• direct that until further notice the employee is not to contact any employees, clients or contractors other than specified personnel (usually the investigator and/or Manager). 
Consider and Respond

Once the evidence has been gathered, decision makers for the employer need to consider the issue and determine the most appropriate action.  Consideration can be given to any admissions, apology, level of cooperation with the investigation, explanation and undertakings to repay.  An employee’s length of service and prior conduct is also relevant. 
The ultimate question to answer is whether employment can continue.  
If you determine that a theft has occurred it would be appropriate to summarily dismiss the employee (without notice) for serious misconduct. 
If you are not certain there was a theft, but determine that the employee has engaged in misconduct (which can include refusing to cooperate with an investigation) you may decide to terminate the employment but do so with payment in lieu of notice in accordance with the employment contract. 
Consider whether to notify other employees about any termination for stealing.  Sometimes the deterrent effect makes such an announcement justifiable, however the reputations of the business and the terminated employee should also be considered.
Tips for Employers

Get early legal advice to determine a reasonable and efficient investigation procedure, how to collect and preserve relevant evidence, whether to involve police and how to ensure procedural fairness is afforded to an accused employee.
Use IT security systems, surveillance and monitoring to detect and prevent employee theft.
Be discrete and fair until the investigation is concluded.
Document everything.
This is general information only, and does not constitute specific legal advice. If you would like further information in relation to this matter or other legal matters please contact our office on Freecall 1800 609 945 or email us now.

100 years of Supporting West Australians

"My family law experience with Mary Roubos has restored my faith in solicitors in general. She not only demonstrated her legal expertise and flair, but also showed a compassionate and understanding nature during the lengthy process. I felt that Mary went above and beyond her obligations as my solicitor, and really listened to me. I would highly recommend Mary and her assistant Debra Wilson, who also demonstrated professionalism and excellence on all levels."

Renee Frangiosa

"Always fast and thorough service. Thank you"

Sitka Pil

"I found Ben most helpful and always prompt to let me know where things were at. Will definately use Ben again and will recommend to others."

Gerrit and Mary Van Bralal

"We wish to express our thanks for your help in attending to our mother/ wife's will - Mrs Grace Margaret Vessey. Aimee was extremely helpful and easy to deal with. We are greatful for your help with our affairs."

Ms Rosalyn Norman, Mr Stephen Vessey

"Thank you ever so much for all your hard work on my case Nicole, I really appreciate everything you did for me."

Workers Compensation Client

"Thank you for such great assistance with the transaction of Flying Domestics on behalf of Lorna Good. It has been such such a pleasure to work with the HHG Legal Group and I look forward to working with you in the future."

Jim Goodwin

"Simon Creek and his team were at all times empathic, professional and confident.  My matter needed to be addressed within a pressing time frame, and their availability at short notice and contact after hours was much appreciated.  It caused me considerable stress, but having such a thoroughly reliable and competent team to call on helped me to feel in control. Although I hope not to need their services again in future, I would be confident in doing so!"

Dr Lana Bell

"A good outcome is what we can expect.  A great outcome is a sign of a company which does the very best for their clients. A very big thank you to Daniel Morris for showing empathy towards my small and much needed legal action.

To HHG Legal Group, thank you for a great outcome.  I would recommend your company to anyone seeking legal services."

Jan Atkinson

"Your support this morning was amazingly kind, not to mention your totally reassuring competence, knowledge and wisdom that you used on my behalf.  It was extremely reassuring to have your knowledgeable support, and I particularly appreciated your real and obvious kindness to me. It means so much at a very difficult time. I'm so grateful to you."

Family Law Client

"I highly recommend the services of HHG Legal Group for both personal and business needs. HHG is very up to date with legal advice and are in tune with the evolution of business."

Robert Forgione

"Sue and myself would like to thank HHG for the way in which our dispute was resolved. It is good to know that people who do not have an understanding of the legal system can rely on people like yourself and the company you represent. Without the assistance of HHG we could not have resolved the problems we were facing, not only have we resolved the issue but the outcome was more favourable then we would have thought possible. Thank-you and please pass on our thanks to all those who worked behind the scenes to achieve this outcome."

Rick and Sue Ashton

"Janene was very professional and we established a good rapport quickly. The subject of death and wills can be quite confronting to deal with, however Janene's approach was soft and accommodating."

Lynette Livesey

"A big thank you to HHG for their professional service, continued support, and wide range of legal knowledge. Our clients have given us nothing but kind words regarding HHG Legal Group and so we have no hesitation in referring and recommending Simon Creek and HHG Legal Group for their outstanding services and legal expertise."

Nigel Plowman, Director at McKinley Plowman & Associates

"Simon is a friendly and practical legal advisor. I have received great feedback from the clients I have referred to him and his team at HHG Legal Group."

Richard Beal, Director at BDO

"Over the last few years, I have been impressed by Simon’s legal ability, management skills, entrepreneurial spirit, personal integrity and people skills. He appears to be that rare breed of lawyer – both knowledgeable and commercial."

Michael Malone, Founder of iiNet

"Our family has been a client of HHG Legal Group over many years and most recently in 2013 and February 2014.  Business has included drawing up of wills for three generations and preparing of probate for my father in law.

I would have no hesitation in recommending HHG Legal Group to anyone requiring such services."

Bernice Climie

"You should be congratulated for the manner in which your staff address clients and we found our dealings with your company, once again a very pleasant experience and we would like to truly thank you for your efforts."

Steve Harvey and Jane Powell

"HHG Legal were absolutely fantastic. Extremely responsive and brought calm to our chaotic family situation through their knowledge and caring attitude. Extremely professional from our very first contact with them and they expertly guided our family though the required legal process over almost a 12 month period."

Amanda Williamson

"Fantastic team! They really care about their client. Tim Colcutt is a 'go that extra mile' guy who gives his client his all. I can't recommend HHG and Tim enough."

Kerry Samson

"Anne Hurley has been such a valuable resource of information and advice, her wealth of knowledge is truly impressive and her ability to explain things in a way that makes them easily understood is very much appreciated. Anne and the wider HHG Legal Group are always a pleasure to work with."

Giorgia Parham

"I had a fantastic lawyer in Anne Hurley. She helped me out a great deal with good, sound advice in a friendly , professional manner. First class, thanks Anne"

Graeme Hammond

"Marine Plant Systems has been working with HHG Legal Group for a few years now and they continually provide first class service. Their professional advice has been invaluable to our company."

Carolin Grimm

"We were kept up to date at all times. Pricing was always updated over the time period so we remained "in budget". Personal access to someone whenever I had questions. All in all a great experience without too much fuss."

Rosslyn Tasker - COO AltusQ Pty Ltd

"Good service you can count on."

Miles Lee

"HHG Legal Group have provided outstanding support as I have taken the journey of buying a business, their professionalism is beyound reproach. Their assistance throughout the Due Diligernce process have been invaluable, I would fully recommend them."

Mark Armitage

"I have experienced how good the HHG Legal Group team are over the last 6 years and highly recommend them."

Lyn Hawkins

"Very friendly and efficient service - what a pleasure working with Anne."

Jacques Taylor

"I highly recommend Daniel from HHG Legal Mandurah. When dealing with a complicated legal property matter recently I was extremely impressed by Daniel's honesty and integrity and the legal advice I received. I am very happy with the service from HHG Legal."

Tony Walker