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How to Build an Employee Theft Policy That Works

January 10, 2020

Create an employee theft policy your employees will actually understand

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.

Be sure to include all the different types of theft in your policy. For example, time theft can be a big concern during the current labor shortage.

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.

The fact is that opportunity is one of the three sides of the employee theft triangle, and a relaxed view on internal theft, real or perceived, sets you up to experience more of it.

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.

How Solink Helps 1
If your business is using Solink’s video surveillance system for loss prevention, try this script that our clients love for addressing their staff team about an incident: “As you may be aware, our SOLINK app identified dishonest behavior by one of our associates. We have escalated these findings to law enforcement and are currently working with them to resolve the matter. I will remind everyone that SOLINK is active for everyone’s protection, and if you need to us, we are here to help.”

6. Get the words right by using 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.