While it’s rare, the handling of cash in pubs and bars means the odd £10 or £20 can easily be slipped into an employee's pocket.
And even rarer, publicans can become victims to much larger sums going missing.
Last month, a publican hit out after she was awarded £1 from a previous manager who was caught, and pleaded guilty, to stealing more than £21,000 from the site.
Solicitor Melanie Morton from legal firm Nelsons sets out some simple guidance on preventing staff theft.
More than one responsible party
Where possible it is advised to avoid restricting certain duties and tasks (particularly financial ones) to just one person. If only one person is responsible for and has knowledge on processes like cashing up or ordering stock, it can enable them to hide misconduct more easily. Having more than one person involved in a process makes it harder for things to be concealed.
It is important to ensure transparency in processes, and for employees to be made aware that their work is being checked and reviewed periodically. It can be tempting to leave a trusted and experienced manager to their own devices but they ultimately need to be accountable to someone and their activities checked and monitored periodically.
Have effective policies in place – it goes without saying that staff should not steal, but I would always reference theft and fraud as examples of gross misconduct in the disciplinary policy.
Staff should be made aware that dismissal is a likely sanction where theft has taken place and can also be reminded in policy documentation that the employer may seek to take external steps to recover its losses.
It is also worth pointing out to staff that where it is suspected that criminal activity has taken place, the employer may choose to make a report to the police.
Another useful policy to have is a whistle-blowing policy that points concerned staff in the direction of someone trusted if they want to make a disclosure about suspected theft or other criminal activity. Whistle blowers should be protected and not subjected to any detriment or dismissal for making such disclosures.
What about surveillance? It is not usually necessary, or advised, to fix cameras on staff 24/7 – employers need to balance employees’ right to privacy with their right to protect their business. However, a visible camera that staff are aware of can be a great tool to discourage theft. Many pubs, bars and restaurants have CCTV as a matter of course for public order purposes. Employees should be made aware of any monitoring and the purpose of it.
If you suspect someone of stealing/fraudulent activity then you can consider suspending them on full pay, pending investigation into their conduct. Having them out of the way may enable a more thorough investigation to take place without risk of them destroying evidence. If you feel that there is a case to answer then you can progress to take disciplinary action against that individual.