Theft in the workplace – What Now?

 

‘My jewellery is missing’ is all too commonly heard in South African households, but before you lay, the blame on your domestic worker be sure that you handle any suspected domestic crime in a professional and informed manner.

Offences committed by domestic workers is sadly on the increase. It is necessary that Employers know how to handle those offences constructively.

Over one million people work as a domestic in South Africa, according to Statistics South Africa. As with most crimes in this country, though, there are no available statistics to indicate how serious the situation is.

A domestic crime is hurtful and stressful because it happens so close to home. Small things lead to bigger crimes and, once a trust relationship has been violated, it is gone.

A general guideline is that employers of domestic workers should take the same approach that their employers would in their workplace. You do not always need a professional labour expert, but it is advised that you carry out standard disciplinary procedures, document a disciplinary hearing and, should the crime be proven, get the offender to sign an admission of guilt before dismissal.

In charging an employee with theft, an employer must be able to demonstrate on a balance of probability that:

  • The employee took goods which didn’t belong to him/her.
  • The employee knew that he/she required permission to take such goods and didn’t have such permission.
  • By taking the goods, the employee deprived the employer of its use and possession.
  • The employee didn’t intend to return the goods to the employer.

To prove the employee’s actions of taking the goods – the employer can call witnesses who can attest to the employee’s actions, or were present when the goods were found in the employee’s possession. The employer can also make use of cameras in the workplace, but only with employee’s permission as this can be seen as a violation of the employee’s rights. To prove the employee’s intentions – aware of the lack of permission and intention not to return the goods – the employer should determine the employee’s “state of mind” by considering the nature of the stolen goods and the explanation provided by the employee.

We are firmly advising employers to implement proactive measures to combat theft in the workplace. Herewith a few guidelines employers can follow:

  • Use labour legislation to your benefit in drafting your employment contracts by including clauses that require the employee to permit the installation of cameras in the workplace, a search of employees as well as their belongings.
  • Ensure that your disciplinary code is relevant and up to date regarding offences and appropriate sanctions. Also, ensure that all employees are aware of what the disciplinary code entails.
  • Improve the recruitment process by including reference and criminal checks.

The other alternative is to make use of a cleaning service, such as Skitterblink Cleaning Services. Because at Skitterblink, we enter the private and personal environment of our clients, we give security a high priority. We screen our employees as best as possible. We do reference checks, have copies of their ID’s and do not allow private bags to enter the client’s premises. Should we be confronted with theft cases, we have a detailed procedure in place. We will even perform polygraph tests on all our employees when necessary, taking all the stress of you as the client.

Skitterblink Cleaning Services is a leading provider of professional housekeeping services. With locations across South Africa, it’s easy to find a location near you. Visit  http://www.skitterblink.co.za/cleaning-franchisees/

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