Help! Have I had a staff member commit theft?

Help! Have I had a staff member commit theft?

August 24, 2023

All workplaces experience theft. It appears to also have happened recently in the British Musuem so why should the rest of us be exempt.

In this article we will cover what employers need to consider when managing an allegation that staff theft has occurred.

“The mystery of the bowl of soup and the 50p”

Some years ago when we were based in a shared office space our kitchen was common to a number of offices. We have just purchased an office soup maker and had made a batch of our ‘vegetable special’. One extra bowl was placed in the fridge and the following day it was missing and a 50p placed in the fridge. Cue investigation by the landlady and a fellow tenant being told in ‘no undercertain terms’ to refrain from helping himself to Redwing’s soup. In this case of theft, Garry didn’t intend to offend and should have asked first. This wasn’t theft as much as ignorance.

Go all Sherlock

When investigating an allegation of say a purse going missing we would recommend that it can be effective to ‘go all sherlock”. By this we mean, what explanations are there for where the purse could be? Does anyone know anything of the whereabouts of the purse (talk to potential witnesses), is there a reasonable explanation rather than someone has taken it? Did the purse fall out of the bag in the car? Have the cards been used? In the days of digital banking we can often see quickly if something has happened with our accounts. We can also get cards stopped really quickly.


These days CCTV is great for recording movements. If used legally it can provide evidence that might support an investigation into an allegation of staff theft. We should avoid locating CCTV in areas where staff relax and for that reason consider where to locate bags and lockers and whether that is one and the same areas. We can recall cases where an employee was seen to access an area they had no reason to access and then try and explain themselves. It failed and they were fairly dismissed for theft.

Don’t mount a sting operation!

This never is effective. You are not local CID. We would advise against marked notes and mandatory staff searches. Prevention is better than cure. How can we prevent the loss of a future purse.

Ask for it to be returned

Sometimes someone’s desperation has led them to take desperate measures. We recall a case where an employee stole food from a service user she was employed to support due to bad debts. The employer in question would have happily given her food if she had only said. There any very sad cases of employee’s who are really struggling, and again prevention is better than cure.

When it appears on Ebay

Again very common, and appears to be what has been found to have occured in the British Museum case. Ebay is commonly used to sell stolen items of company property. Employers are well advised to carry out sporadic checks of this site for any widgets they sell and see whether they can uncover employee theft.

Report to the police

The police might only provide a crime number but always report allegations of theft to the local police station.

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