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Investigating Employee Misconduct

By: Robin Mizell - Updated: 7 Aug 2013 | comments*Discuss
Employee Misconduct Employee Malfeasance

If you’re a business owner, you worry about losses and liability. Yet, protecting your company from the damage caused by dishonest or disgruntled staff can occupy so much of your time that it becomes a business unto itself. Stringent laws make it seem difficult to investigate an employee’s wrongdoing or take action to prevent it. But if you turn a bind eye to misconduct, you’ll ruin good workers’ morale and make your company even more vulnerable.

There’s no need to be a victim. Assistance is readily available—for free if you want to handle matters yourself or at a price if you prefer to hire a corporate security consultant or a private investigator.

Implementing Policies and Procedures

The most effective security measures are those put in place before the first employee is hired, but rarely does a business owner have that luxury. Unfortunately, when you implement new rules and initiate monitoring schemes after problems surface you will inevitably meet with resistance. The best you can hope for is to counter employees’ opposition to new security measures by adequately explaining the reasons for them and discussing the new procedures long before they take effect. Many workers don’t fully realise that companies have certain responsibilities to protect their employees’ physical well-being and privacy as well as business profits. Letting the staff in on your perspective as a business owner can go a long way toward encouraging compliance with security policies.

Outline for yourself as well as for your employees the rationale for establishing monitoring strategies. Your reasons can include quality control, training needs assessment, health and safety of workers and customers, legal compliance, and customer service. If you have a staff of five or more, then your business must have written health and safety policies as well. You can be held liable if you fail to take reasonable precautions to protect your employees from crime, including crimes committed by co-workers. Failure to report crimes to the police or to implement crime prevention measures can be perceived as abdication of your responsibility to provide a safe environment for workers.

Encourage your staff to tell you about issues related to their safety on the job. Train them to work safely. Enforce policies meant to avoid risks and reduce the potential for losses.

Workplace Monitoring

If your security scheme involves surveillance, your employees will need to be told exactly how they will be monitored. You might install CCTV, audio recording devices, or software designed to collect data on the usage of the company’s computer network. You could be concerned with employees’ use of the Internet, email, the telephone system, or the corporate fleet. There might be a need to establish company policies for searches, performance audits (also known as mystery shoppers), mobile tracking of vehicles and equipment, or random drug testing.

Seldom is covert observation in the workplace legally justifiable. If you intend to monitor your employees, you’re required by law to explain what you’re doing, how, and why. If you’re monitoring to enforce work rules, then the rules must be made clear to employees, preferably in writing. Your surveillance and security methods must also be proportionate to the problem you’re addressing. This means the benefits must be worth the intrusion, not just in your estimation but also in the judgment of the courts. Choose the method that is least offensive to those being monitored. It helps if you listen to input from your staff before choosing a course of action. You’re also legally obligated to permit the workers you monitor to obtain a copy of the information you collect on them, and you must take steps to protect the data from misuse in the broadest sense of the word.

The Data Protection Act and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act are two laws that directly apply to your efforts to monitor employees. The Information Commissioner’s Office produces a booklet titled Quick Guide to the Employment Practices Code that explains what you must do to comply with the laws.

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