Back to basics: Don't let them get away with it

Related tags Cash Premises Insurance

A night's or weekend's takings in a popular pub, bar or restaurant can amount to a large sum of money. So you want to look after it.Safeguarding cash...

A night's or weekend's takings in a popular pub, bar or restaurant can amount to a large sum of money. So you want to look after it.

Safeguarding cash while it's on the premises or on its way to a bank or post office is something that should be done with care to prevent theft - by customers, staff or professional criminals - and the possibility of injury to your employees in the process.

Unfortunately, and somewhat surprisingly, not all licensees and pub managers are as diligent in this regard as they should be.

Even if you have the protection of insurance cover, policies still require that licensees take reasonable precautions to look after their cash.

Policy conditions will be dictated by individual circumstances and agreed with the client to suit their requirements. For instance, they will specify the amount of money that can be kept on the premises, both during and outside business hours, and how it is stored. There will also be clauses stipulating how different amounts of money should be transferred to the bank or post office.

These conditions are sensible, relatively cost-free, precautions which the licensee or manager should be aware of, and are there simply to safeguard cash and protect staff.

The first precaution is not to allow cash to accumulate on the premises as this only leads to temptation. It should not be hidden around the pub in "secret" places but kept in an approved safe of decent quality. This will protect the money from dishonest staff, customers or break-in theft as well as from fire. Insurance brokers will be happy to provide advice together with the names of suppliers of new and second-hand safes.

Access to the safe should be restricted to as few staff as possible and keys should not be left lying around but kept by the licensee or manager. Cash should be accounted for and logged as this makes any loss far easier to quantify.

With the money locked out of sight staff are less likely to help themselves to a few notes that "won't be missed" and it is safeguarded from customers who have taken a chance and gained access to private quarters through unlocked doors.

No one can be sure of employing honest staff but keeping money in a safe with good key security and obtaining written references will keep employee thefts to a minimum. Cases of managers or senior staff absconding with takings invariably involve people with a "past" for whom written references were not obtained.

The next step is to take care when transferring money to banks or post offices. Trips should be properly planned, especially now that they have fewer branches and are likely to be further away. They should also be undertaken fairly frequently so that large sums do not accumulate on the premises exposing the business and its staff to potential threat or harm.

Insurance policy conditions will state that the transfer of more than a given sum, such as £3,000, must be carried out by at least two able-bodied adults, with over £5,000 requiring three. Amounts above £10,000 should normally be taken by a security company.

Particular care should be taken over bank holiday periods, as takings are usually up while banks and post offices will be closed. Varying the times and days of money transfers and adhering to policy conditions will minimise the risks.

Most precautions for safeguarding cash takings, both on the premises and when conveying it to the bank, are little more than common sense but they are all too often overlooked. By taking reasonable safety measures and complying with insurance policy conditions any potential threat is significantly reduced, premiums can be kept at a realistic level and, should the worst happen, insurance policy cover will provide protection.

Case 1 - Better safe than sorry

A claim was made following the theft of £11,000 in a break-in at a pub. Thieves had gained entry at night through an open first floor window into the licensee's private quarters and taken the small lightweight safe containing the money. However, the out-of-hours policy limit and cash rating for the safe was £1,500, as the client knew, so only this amount could be paid.

Case 2 - Twice bitten

On two separate occasions a client who runs a chain of pubs claimed for thefts by managers at different premises who had disappeared with some £4,000. Unfortunately, in neither instance had the client obtained any written references, as the policy required for those handling money, so no payment could be made.

Case 3 - On your bike

The client was about to leave for the bank when he was called back into his pub and left his bicycle at the rear of the premises next to the car park - with a bag containing £7,000 on its carrier. When he returned the bag had gone. No insurance payment could be made as he had not taken precautions to protect the money and there should have been three able-bodied adults undertaking the transfer.

Ian Welch is associate director of GR Patrick & Co which provides specialist insurance cover for the licensed trade

Boxing clever

Publicans also need to consider that not all insurance companies will cover the risk of cash machines on their premises. One that does is Swinton Group, the UK's largest high street insurance broker.

Even so, the firm advises that the growing number of pubs with ATMs can be subject to higher insurance premiums on the grounds that the machines are, potentially, a magnet for thieves.

"When it comes to insurance, licensees need to consider the implications of ATMs even if they are maintained and insured by a third party," says Swinton's marketing director Nick Bowyer. "The more perceived opportunities there are to steal cash, the more attractive the premises are to criminals - regardless of the actual value of the machine's cashbox.

"But if you demonstrate that you've taken measures to prevent theft and damage you may well pay less on your policy," he adds.

"We recommend that licensees install a centralised alarm system that monitors the premises 24 hours a day and that they make sure all ATMs are emptied every night.

"And if you are thinking of installing an ATM you should consider fixing it permanently by either bolting it to the wall or by cementing it in."

Swinton Group

Top tips: protecting your cash

  • Don't let too much cash accumulate at the pub before taking it to the bank. Check your insurance policy to find out how much you're covered for
  • Install a safe for your cash and restrict access to as few staff as possible
  • Carefully plan your trips to the bank. Vary the time and route. Again, check your policy to find out the conditions under which you're covered
  • Avoid employing thieves! Obtain written references for the staff you recruit

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