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Bit of an odd situation that I've not come across before.

Staff have been commenting for a while that food has been going missing from the fridge in the staff room.  In fact one member of staff stuck a note in a tub of salad saying 'if you like that much I'll make you one'.

On Friday a member of staff walked into the staff room and witnessed another member of staff taking food out of another persons lunch box.

There was a short exchange of words and the witness then reported the incident to her line manager.

The person with her hand in the fridge went home sick and doesn't work Mondays.

The other staff are outraged so I am considering calling her and suspending her whilst I sort it out.

Theft is a gross misconduct offence but would this amount to that or should I be looking at a more lenient warning?

Grateful of any advice.

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By sarah.welsby
13th Sep 2011 12:11

I have had a number of 'similar' situations:

(1) two colleagues broke into someone's locker and sent a text to his girlfriend using his mobile - they were dismissed;

(2) an employee stole a sandwich from an on site canteen - he was caught by security and escorted from the site - he was dismissed;

(3) a colleage was seen (on camera) taking food from one colleague's lunchbox and a personal item from the other. We seriously considered dismissal, but the person's who's food had been taken then said that they had given their permission. He explained the personal item as a prank, and the item was returned. I am not entirely convinced that this was the case, but we determined to give the employee a written warning.

Clearly you need to investigate, talk to the person who is alleged to have been stealing - and make a decision based on the full facts. However theft is theft, and I don't think that the low monetary value of the food should influence the decision. The major issue here is that the trust relationship between employees has been broken ...... what happens if something (possibly with a higher monetary value) goes missing? 

I hope this helps. sjw


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Karen Drury
By Karen Drury
13th Sep 2011 12:49

I don't think I can add much to Sarah's brilliantly commonsense response - except that whatever action you decide to take after investigation sends a very strong message to your workforce.  So what do you want that message to be? This is not about the reaction of the co-workers, this is about how management wants to be seen and remembered.


-- Karen Drury

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By [email protected]
13th Sep 2011 13:23

We had a very similar situation with food regularly going missing from the fridge but we could not catch the theif in action. We put a notice on the fridge door warning that the 'theft' would be investigated and the likely outcome would be dismissal for Gross Misconduct. We did not catch the perpetrator but the thefts stopped immediately so everyone was happy. The sign remains of the fridge door to this day.

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