HR tip: Searching employees

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These questions are being answered by Learn HR, a market leader in the provision of HR and payroll training and nationally-recognised professional qualifications.

Question: "Can we search employees? We have two quite threatening looking security officers."

HR Tip: You may consider searching an employee only if you have made clear in your rules or employment contracts that you will carry out random searches, or if you have reason to suspect that the employee is thieving. Then you must have his or her permission to conduct the search.

If the employee refuses, you may take disciplinary action if the right to search is built into employment contracts, otherwise your only recourse is to report your suspicions to the police.

If you attempt to search the employee without permission you may be sued for assault. The search must be carried out in private by a person of the same gender and ethnic group, and the employee must be given opportunity to be accompanied by a colleague. Apart from this colleague, anyone else present should be of the same gender as the employee.

The search should not be more intrusive than is necessary and certainly should not involve the removal of clothing other than overcoats, hats and footwear. A full written report should be made of the search including the date, time, names of people present, and result of the search.

And keep your threatening looking guards at the gate to deter thieves. Whoever conducts the search must do so in a completely non-threatening manner. Employee searches are not good for morale so try to find better ways of securing company property.

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02nd Jul 2007 09:20

I can understand why you say that searches should be conducted by someone of the same gender, but what is the basis for saying it should be the same ethnic group? Surely this is discriminatory with regard to the searchers, and in some cases impractical as you won't necessarily have a searcher of every ethnic group of which you have an employee.

Any views?

Quentin Colborn

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