What Can You Do When an Employee Has Been Stealing From You?

It is devastating for an employer to discover that a trusted employee with years of loyal service has had their ‘fingers in the till’ for some time. It’s not only the financial loss that you may have incurred, it’s also the total betrayal from someone whose work and support you have relied on and believed in.

The recent case of Shirley Player brought this to light this week, when the 61 year old accounts manager was found guilty of stealing ‘a colossal amount of money’. Player had been diagnosed with cancer and facing debts and imminent death, she stole £400,000 from her estate agency employer, for whom she had worked for 14 years.

Fortunately, Player got the all clear from her disease, but now she is facing a jail sentence of four years after pleading guilty to theft. Her defence was that ‘she thought she would be dead before they found out’. While you can feel some sympathy for a woman who had a life threatening illness that had taken both of her sisters, and who has now ended up in prison, the real victims in this case are her employers, who are unlikely to get back any of the money she has stolen.

Peggy Barnard, an Employment Law specialist at leading regional law firm Pictons says “We have recently worked for a client on a case that has similar implications to this shocking situation that has been in the media.

“Employers who suspect that an employee may be stealing from the company need to proceed cautiously to ensure they don’t expose themselves to legal liability. Employers should be on the lookout for potential warning signs of employee theft, investigate these thoroughly, and carefully document all findings before confronting an employee. Depending on the results of the investigation, the employer’s next step may be to subject to the employee to a disciplinary process, which could result in the employee’s dismissal on the grounds of gross misconduct. Employers also need to consider whether or not to pursue criminal charges.

“However, unfortunately none of the above assists the employer in recovering their losses. Whilst clauses can be inserted into contracts of employment, providing that the employee will indemnify the employer against any losses caused, in reality such clauses can be difficult to enforce, especially in cases where the employee has spent the money and has no assets. The harsh reality is therefore often that employers never fully recover their financial losses. My best advice is that employers should have measures in place to assist them in identifying suspected theft in the workplace at an early stage, and to then act quickly to minimise potential losses.”

If you would like to speak to Peggy regarding this or any other Employment issues please call her on 0845 263 7505 (calls charged at the local rate) or email her peggy.barnard@pictons.co.uk

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