An expert has released comments highlighting four cases of theft in the workplace and has weighed in on the potential consequences.
Employee theft can come in many forms, whether it be pocketing office supplies, or misusing equipment or software.
Although theft in the workplace is generally considered an act of gross misconduct, there were reportedly almost 500 incidents of people caught stealing by their employer every month in 2022 (Source: Zurich), with an estimated 23,807,520 employees across the UK having printed personal documents at work in the past year (Source: TonerGiant), indicating that many aren’t deterred by the potential consequences.
Stuart Deavall from TonerGiant, has unpacked four cases of workplace theft and concluded whether each could be considered a sackable offence.
“Something as simple as stealing a pen from your office’s stationery supply may not seem like a sackable offence, but Brits should tread carefully before taking advantage of workplace equipment. Even the pettiest acts of theft could get you in trouble if you’re not careful!”
- Stealing stationery
“Pocketing pens or permanently ‘borrowing’ glue sticks for use outside of work is arguably one of the most common forms of theft in the workplace. Many are lured by the opportunity to nab a free item of stationery under the impression that it is insignificant enough to go unnoticed.”
“Whilst being outright sacked for stashing away a few pencils and rubbers is unlikely to happen, it won’t reflect too well on your value as an employee, should you get caught. As well as indicating a lack of integrity and honesty, stealing your workplace’s stationery without compensating them for it suggests a lack of respect for your employer, so bear that in mind before you skip a visit to WHSmith and take directly from the office stationery supply instead!”
- Taking utensils from the office kitchen
“If you’re low on utensils at home and your workplace has a communal kitchen, then it may be tempting to make the most of this and take a few items for yourself. It’s easy to be fooled into thinking that no one is going to miss a couple of knives or forks, but, if you get found out, your workplace isn’t likely to take kindly to employees taking something intended for everyone to use.”
“Whether you get fired for stealing from the kitchen may depend on how much you’ve taken, but taking one or two smaller items isn’t likely to result in you losing your job. Even so, employees who take that chance will usually find that the risks still outweigh the benefits either way.”
“Not only could the perks of taking home a free item quickly backfire should you be asked to reimburse or replace anything that you’ve stolen, but you could also end up losing the respect of your employer and colleagues, and significantly impact your working relationships in the process.”
- Using company software for personal use
“Many workplaces have strict policies in place that limit employees from making use of company software for any personal endeavours. Mixing work with your personal needs is generally frowned upon for the serious impact that it can have on your productivity, but this can also have more severe ramifications for the company as a whole.”
“A business may choose to purchase software on a specific company license, which will often set out exactly how and when this can be used. Using company software for personal use could therefore be considered a misappropriation of resources and an infringement upon this agreement, and should your employer face any additional costs or legal consequences as a result, you should expect to find yourself out of a job.”
- Using the office printer for personal use
“The consequences of using the office printer for personal use will vary depending on company policy. In some cases, employees may be expected to cover the cost of any printer use with their own money, whereas, in other cases, the cost of printing may come out of your workplace’s budget.”
“Employers may be more lenient towards those who ask for permission to use the printer for personal purposes. However, employees who do go ahead and print their own documents without asking could be putting their job at risk, as using up company resources such as ink and paper on non-work related pursuits can put a strain on your workplace’s budget and therefore be considered theft.”
“Printing for personal use won’t immediately warrant losing your job unless you are found to have done so excessively, but it can be considered a serious breach of trust and therefore result in disciplinary action, so it’s best avoided unless you have been explicitly granted access.”