Published September 26th, 2017 by

POD HR FORUM: Serious Misconduct – Dealing with Theft (Case Two)

Here at POD we deal with so many different situations within our clients’ businesses, but taking the time to sit down and share what we’ve been working on and our learning is scarce.  To make sure we’re always ahead of our game and up-to-speed in all things HR, we come together as a team fortnightly for what we call our ‘HR Forum’, where we get our heads and stories together!  

Serious misconduct cases have been rife of late – especially cases concerning theft and fraud – our ‘special topic’ of this Case Study series.  Read on for Case 2 and our words of warning when it comes to surveillance of your staff.


Case 2:  Theft

The Allegation

One of our retail clients (Company B) called us into their workplace to assist with an investigation in relation to a relatively significant amount of money ($150) that had gone missing from one of their five tills.  Company B did not have any documented policies or procedures in place in relation to cash handling.

Company B was suspicious of one employee in particular because they had:

  • been working during the time the money went missing,
  • cashed up the till the money went missing from,
  • been working when smaller amounts of cash had gone missing in the past.


Dealing with Theft – Key Considerations:

Could the misconduct be considered ‘serious’?

The question to ask here is whether the misconduct has undermined or destroyed the ‘trust and confidence’ an employer has placed in the employee, and if the answer is ‘yes’, then they may choose to dismiss their employee.  Company B has placed the employee in question in a position of trust, since they have access to the cash register, and so if they have stolen money, this impacts the ability to perform their job and certainly undermines the relationship.

So, how do you identify serious misconduct and what’s the process?

Above all, an employer’s response to misconduct must be ‘fair and reasonable’.  No matter the behaviour, before you dismiss someone, you must conduct a full, fair investigation and a disciplinary process must be followed.  Failure to follow the correct process – even if serious misconduct has taken place – increases the risk of a personal grievance being raised.



Company B had reviewed the CCTV Security Camera footage, however the footage did not show the alleged employee in the act of taking the money from the till, although they were seen going to and from the till in question.

It wasn’t substantively clear the employee had taken the money, and although we spoke with each employee about the incident, asking the same neutral / unbiased questions, we were unable to prove any of their stories, as it was not evident enough on the CCTV footage.


Staff Surveillance – Key Considerations:

Is the surveillance overt? 

If you don’t tell staff about any placed CCTV cameras, it could be viewed as entrapment if you attempt to utilise this footage in an investigation.  It must be clear to staff that surveillance measures are in place.  So, take a less visible form of surveillance – monitoring staff emails – staff must have been made aware that their emails might be monitored.  A robust set of Company Policies will ensure there is no question around whether or not staff surveillance is in place.

Has enough been done to reduce all areas of risk?  

You must do what you can to ensure you’ve deterred staff from having the opportunity to do what you’re trying to prevent.  So in this case, having visible cameras facing all five tills was a step that could have reasonably be taken to reduce the opportunity for staff to steal.



This resulted in no further action being taken as we couldn’t prove that trust in the employee-employer relationship had been undermined.  But we had some recommendations for Company B.


Our Recommendations to Company B

What might not necessarily feel ‘common sense’ to an employer is that when trust in the relationship is in question, a degree of responsibility falls on the employer to take steps to reduce the potential opportunity for a staff member to take the actions you are attempting to mitigate.

In this case, Company B had cameras facing just two of their five tills (the ‘areas of risk’), so it could be said that there was not enough deterrent to steal and that more could have been done to reduce the opportunity for staff to steal.  In this case, it was clear to staff that the CCTV cameras that were in place were there, so we could have used the footage if it had uncovered any evidence to support our case.  In line with the thinking that an employer should do what they can to reduce the opportunity for staff to steal (or do whatever it is you’re attempting to mitigate), surveillance must be overt in order to be able to utilise surveillance footage in such investigations.  Another of our recommendations was that Company B implement a set of robust and clear Company Policies to ensure staff are all clear on and agree to expectations, as well as ‘Cashing Up’ Procedures, to achieve consistency within the business and that staff are trained on these policies and are indeed following them.

Moving forward, if Company B installs more cameras and implements what we’ve recommended, they will have done what they can to mitigate the opportunity for staff to steal and will be in a strong position to build a case against anyone who might steal in future.


* Client confidentiality is important to us; we only share cases with our clients’ permission


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