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Dismissing a Thieving Employee

Many times employers think that they have all the proof that an employee has stolen property from them…..and that it is an open and shut case. The employee is then given a notice to attend a disciplinary hearing which says ‘you stole from us’ and the employer hope that the obvious ruling would be dismissal.

However, there is one thing that an employer must do to dismiss a thieving employee successfully.

To dismiss the employee, a disciplinary hearing must be held and the employee must be given a notice to attend it. As part of this, the employer must decide what the allegations against the employee will be. The employee cannot just be told….’you have stolen from us’.

So what did the employer do wrong in this scenario?

The employee was not given a proper, detailed description of what he did, when he was given the notice. Therefore, he cannot prepare for his disciplinary hearing properly – which means, the employer does not  stand a chance of actually dismissing him successfully.

If the dismissed employee takes the employer to the CCMA, the employer have to provide proof that he followed a fair disciplinary and dismissal procedure. That is why it is vital that the employer knows what records need to be kept to show procedural fairness and that the employer took the right steps to ensure the hearing was fair.

The following 5 elements must be in the notice:

  1. The exact date of when the employee stole the property;
  2. Tell him in detail what he did (see sample below);
  3. Do not bluntly accuse him. Use words, like ‘alleged’, ‘suspected’ and ‘removing property’ instead of ‘you did’ and ‘you stole’;
  4. Use language the employee will understand. Do not use words and terms he would not know;
  5. Keep the description simple. Stick to short facts and describe what you say he did wrong.

Sample disciplinary notice and description of allegation:

‘It is alleged that on 27 February 2018 you took a laptop from the company’s premises. From the document we have, it seems as if you forged your manager’s signature. This made it look like you had permission to take the laptop, when you did not. It seems as if you were trying to remove it without paying for it, which, in line with company policy, is theft.’