Almost 70pc of employees admit stealing from work
Published 11/08/2010 | 05:00
CLOSE to 70pc of Irish workers have admitted stealing from their workplace: a practice that is costing employers millions of euro a year, according to a new survey.
A recent survey of 1,434 workers both north and south of the border revealed that 68pc of employees admitted to the theft of office supplies, petty cash and even their colleagues' lunches, according to the employment law firm Peninsula Ireland.
Pens, post-it notes, pre-stamped envelopes, rulers and staplers were the most commonly purloined items, the survey revealed.
But the theft of expensive items like laptops, company mobile phones and important company files were also reported by employers.
Despite the moral and cost issues, the overwhelming majority of those who admitted stealing -- 77pc -- did not think that their actions were a problem for the company and they showed no remorse for their behaviour, the survey found.
Almost three-quarters of those (74pc) said they stole from their place of employment because their colleagues got away with it.
Yet Alan Price, managing director of the employment law firm Peninsula Ireland, said that theft of any kind from an employer is still a crime and a sackable offence.
"It doesn't matter whether you're stealing post-it notes or a laptop, theft is theft and it shouldn't be tolerated," he said.
"Strict rules regarding theft need to be made clear to all workers and those employees who do steal should face the penalties. Some workers have the mentality that taking a small and inexpensive item from work doesn't count as stealing, unfortunately they are wrong. It is the responsibility of the business to outline to workers that all theft will be treated as a serious offence."
He urged companies to draw up strict disciplinary procedures for theft by employees.
"If a thief is caught 'red-handed', it is important that the company make an example out of the member of staff," he added.
He also said companies have a responsibility to keep a close eye on their stock levels.
"If staff are made aware that stock levels will be continually monitored then they will think twice about trying to pull the wool over their employer's eyes," he said.
The issue is more important than ever as companies -- especially small businesses -- struggle to stay afloat, he added.
Meanwhile, Avine McNally, acting director of the Small Firms Association (SFA), said: "In the current economic climate staff stealing from the workplace could have a long-term effect on the viability of the business."
A survey on crime conducted by the SFA in June found that 18pc of the crimes committed in workplace were the theft of stock and supplies.