I've had a tip-off from a staff member concerned about some suspicious, possibly fraudulent behaviour by another staff member. How do I manage this?
A: First, gather more details.
There is obviously a big difference between having suspicions and having proof. It is also trite wisdom that suspicious behaviour frequently has a reasonable and benign explanation.
You should ask the staff member to make a full statement outlining his or her knowledge. If the staff member wishes to remain anonymous you should try to resist this.
In most situations any accused employee will have the right to know who made the allegations. One exception may be if the allegation would fall under the Protected Disclosures Act 2000 "whistleblowing" legislation, which sets up a scheme for public and private sector employees to report serious wrong-doing in their workplace.
The Office of the Ombudsmen website has excellent resources regarding this legislation.
Once you have the statement you will make your own preliminary enquiries also. Remember there quickly comes a time when you will need to put the allegations to the employee concerned.
You may need to avoid waiting for a cast iron case, or to catch the employee "in the act" which could be seen as undue delay, or entrapment.
If you have sufficient evidence to level allegations it is important that, in the employment context, you act quickly. This should include outlining the allegations to the employee and possibly suspending him or her (following all relevant policies).
The employment investigation should proceed to a conclusion before any mention of "criminal charges." An employee could potentially rely on his or her "right to silence" under the Bill of Rights Act 1990 to delay the employment investigation until criminal charges have been dealt with.
- Charles McGuiness is an employment partner at Cullen Law.
A: Fraud is a major problem in business.
Ten per cent of staff will always steal, 10 per cent will never, but 80 per cent will if given the right opportunity.
You need to get on top of this immediately. If the fraud is of a significant nature, fire the person (assuming of course you have sufficient evidence and an appropriate clause in their employment contract).
If your systems have holes in them and the impact is high then perhaps its time to put some better systems in place. Do not go overboard on minor risks.
- Mark Robotham - SME business adviser. Website: growthmanagement.co.nz
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