Q: I’ve heard that a strictly applied zero tolerance policy is legal. Is there anything I need to watch out for?

I own a small retail store. One of my biggest headaches is theft, which has a big impact on my bottom-line. What concerns me is that I suspect one or two of my staff members may be helping themselves to stock, but I haven’t yet been able to prove it. I’m thinking of implementing a new procedure, similar to what the large retail chains do: all staff need to declare personal possessions when they arrive for work. When they leave, they get searched. And if they have undeclared possessions on them (obviously possessions that are also available for sale in my store) they need to produce the sales receipt proving that they purchased it during the day. If they don’t, it’s treated as theft and they get an immediate dismissal. I’ve heard that a strictly applied zero tolerance policy is legal. Is there anything I need to watch out for?

A:

A zero tolerance policy can be a useful tool. But it needs to be tempered with a sense of reason. In a 2015 case an employee won her case against her employer. She didn’t declare her deodorant when she arrived at work. And when she left work at the end of the day the deodorant was found and she was dismissed because she couldn’t produce a receipt for it. The Labour Appeal Court felt that dismissal was too harsh a sentence given that this was her first offence and the value of the item was small.

If you want to implement a similar zero tolerance policy, here are a few points to consider:

  • Make sure you have detailed policies and procedures in place, and that all your staff are aware of them;
  • Make sure your staff understand the severity of the problem, and appreciate the importance of implementing a zero tolerance policy
  • Consider a more stepped approach, eg. give first-time offenders committing a minor transgression a written warning instead of immediate dismissal;
  • Be clear about what actions would result in dismissal. And make sure that dismissal is an appropriate and reasonable sanction;
  • Make sure you have Disciplinary Procedures in place to deal with employee transgressions.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This