Advice for small business retailers on dealing with employee theft by a minor

This advice is from our vault of business management advice for indie small business retailers. This vault contains advice on many diverse aspects of small business management, often far removed from the POS software we are known for.

Today our advice is about how to deal with employee theft by a minor in a retail business.

If you suspect an employee aged under eighteen of theft from your business you need to be careful as to how you navigate this. It is important to take time to decide the appropriate plan of action before you approach the suspect to even investigate the matter. The wrong approach could have challenging consequences for you, your business and the person you suspect.

Our suggestion is that the moment you have a suspicion, invite the suspect and a parent in for a meeting. Have someone else there as well, as your witness.

  1. Present your evidence and invite their response.
  2. Ensure you are civil, factual and not emotional.
  3. Listen to their response without interruption.
  4. If they ask what you want to do about it, be sure you have a reasonable response ready. If there is agreement on this, move forward.
  5. If there is not agreement on what you propose, or if they deny the theft, you need to be ready with your next course of action. This course of action should be reasonable and focussed on getting to verifiable truth.

If there is agreement that theft occurred and the employee is casual, my suggestion is immediate termination with you paying out what is owed by law. Put it behind you. Never speak of it outside the business. To constantly revisit it, especially outside a major city, can be debilitating.

If there is not agreement, ask they other side what they want to do. It could be that even though they deny it they are happy to walk away from the business. If this is not the case, you could suggest mediation. The Fair Work Obmudsman office could possible play a role here. You could equally suggest that both sides take the matter to the police.

The reality is that once you make a complaint to parents you have to be prepared to follow through, to see the matter to a reasonable end.

My core message today is that handling the suspected theft by someone under eighteen takes care and planning, to ensure that you, your business and the suspect are all dealt with fairly and safely.

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