Create an employee theft policy your employees will actually understand
Guest Expert: Herbert Melendez, Manager of Audit & Investigation for Solink
Clear policies are key to good business; they help familiarize staff with expectations and consequences, as well as protecting your business from wrongful dismissal suits. Knowing that there is a policy in place for associate dishonesty will not only deter internal theft, but may also encourage honest employees to bring forward concerns. Writing an employee theft policy doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does have to be done well.
What to include in your employee theft policy:
1. Clear definitions of employee theft. You cannot be too clear on this point! Your policy should be written in a way that leaves no doubt in the minds of your employees as to what constitutes theft, fraud, and associate dishonesty.
2. Detail the progressive discipline steps. An employee is more likely to report a dishonest act if they feel like they know exactly what steps will come next. Decide on your steps, remembering to think about the wide variety of theft, fraud, and dishonesty you could be dealing with. There may be occasions where evidence is not clear enough to warrant a termination, so it’s wise to include a progressive plan for such cases. If you are implementing a ‘3 strikes’ approach (a verbal, written, and final warning approach) you’ll want to ensure that’s documented; your strategy must be consistent if you wish to avoid lawsuits.
3. State the obvious: employee theft and fraud means authorities are called. Particularly if you have a casual and friendly workplace, employees may be shocked when you call in the police over an internal theft or fraud incident. Clear mention of the authorities and when they would be involved helps to drive home the fact that this is not a game-your career and your criminal record could be on the line.
4. Consult and use experts. Ideally, human resources or your legal department should be the overseers of any policy. It is highly advised that smaller businesses find an online or contract HR service to help with initial internal theft policy development.
5. Assume the team knows. Sometimes managers and owners try to hide incidents of employee theft from the rest of the staff team. Realistically, word travels fast and rumours may be flying. Consider a memo or email to staff explaining that an incident has taken place and you’d like to take this moment to invite staff to bring forward any other evidence or incidents they may be aware of. Some staff will find this stressful, but many of your associates will likely feel relief, knowing that their company is confidently in control of the situation.
6. Get the words right-use a template. Your employee theft policy doesn’t have to be long, wordy, or complex. The focus is on providing enough information for employees to know what’s unacceptable and how a situation would be dealt with. You can use this free template to get your policy rolling, and adapt it to your specific industry or location.
About the author:
Herbert Melendez is Manager of Audit and Investigations with Solink. He has implemented systems and solutions for 29 years in major retailers like Rite Aid, Bed Bath & Beyond, Walmart, and Ross Stores. Herbert approaches loss prevention with a focus on the customer experience, and with a belief that good LP strategy can be invaluable to any company.