Catching employees red-handed
Employee theft is a reality that all kinds of businesses must deal with. And some of the stories out there are alarming. A few pens here, a notepad or two there, a stapler, a ruler, a stamp – who would notice these little items should they disappear from the workplace? But what about more serious […]
Employee theft is a reality that all kinds of businesses must deal with. And some of the stories out there are alarming.
A few pens here, a notepad or two there, a stapler, a ruler, a stamp – who would notice these little items should they disappear from the workplace?
But what about more serious cases of theft or fraud? Recently, an administrator for the small Renwick-based company Wairau Power Services gave herself a pay rise, stole client payments and abused the company fuelcard. She managed payments from clients to the company but changed the bank account number on invoices to clients to divert the money to her own bank account.
When business owners think about protecting their assets, they often think about protecting themselves from outside threats. Unfortunately, theft isn’t exclusively committed by customers, but can come from within.
Senior Employment Relations Adviser Vanessa Bainbridge, from Employsure, a workplace relations specialist service, says she has seen many cases – proven and unproven – of employee theft.
“The truth is, employee theft is a reality that all kinds of businesses have to deal with. It may take the form of a cashier “forgetting” to swipe a friend’s purchase or an employee funnelling thousands of dollars into a personal bank account.”
Bainbridge shares details of some alarming client stories: “One client was running a small business importing Italian coffee machines. As he spent a lot of time visiting potential clients, he was often out of the warehouse for long periods of time. Over several months, he realised money was being stolen from the safe in his office.
Several employees had access to the safe, and the business owner had no idea who was stealing the money. One Friday evening, he decided to place a hidden camera in his office to catch the perpetrator. The following Monday, he viewed the footage and discovered who had been stealing the money. He then removed the camera from the office, confronted the employee with the evidence and terminated his employment for serious misconduct. The business owner then also provided a copy of the recording to the police.”
In a much more serious case, a not-for-profit organisation contacted Employsure for assistance after a senior staff member was using the charity credit card for unlawful transactions. “Over $1,400 was spent on an insurance policy, $200 at a spa treatment, hundreds on phone bills, taxi transactions, food and beverages, all at an estimated total over $8,000. The employee strongly denied the evidence declaring she was victimised and being targeted; claims which were later found to be untrue.
We then helped that client manage the process of termination in a fair and efficient way, in line with the Employment Relations Act,” Bainbridge says.
Can employers secretly film you at work?
Theft is by its very nature not easy for employers to identify, simply because they are not intended to find out about it. It is common practice for employers to resort to installing hidden cameras or by means of other methods. For instance, if an employee is suspected of taking company property, an employer may want to monitor the person to gain evidence. If the employer lets the employee know, it could defeat the employer’s ability to find out what has occurred.
Bainbridge says, employers might be permitted to monitor an employee without them knowing – particularly if they’re suspected of stealing but warns “filming employees needs to be approached very carefully. Are you looking to fix a problem or is it just a case of filming for the sake of it? It is important to understand your obligations and ensure comply with the principles of the Privacy Act.”
The solution also includes “prevention strategies established across the business including payroll, internal relations, recruitment, performance management, workplace health and safety, and workplace conduct,” she said.