Times are tough enough these days for companies, especially the smaller ones, without dishonest employees pilfering goods or cash.
Declining revenues and tough trading conditions are bad enough, but hard-earned profits being stolen are enough to make employers want to give up. In yesterday's paper we ran a story about Hawke's Bay police warning business to keep a close watch on their accounting practices after an increase in employee-related fraud.
It seems that there has been a steady flow of fraud complaints from businesses where trusted employees have been stealing cash or goods from their employers.
Detective Senior Sergeant Dave de Lange, the head of Hawke's Bay CIB, said in many cases the dishonest activity was to fund a lifestyle that was beyond the offender's means or to support a gambling habit.
He said normally there were obvious warning signs, especially if the employee was on a low wage. This includes expensive holidays, new cars or houses or personal items.
Companies need to have people they can trust to handle their finances, especially during these tough economic times when every penny counts and the line between profitability and bankruptcy is very fine.
It is hard for employees as well, but that is no excuse for theft. Neither is gambling an excuse for criminal behaviour. If they are resorting to theft to feed their gambling habit, then they need to be caught, punished and given help.
The unfortunate thing is that the increase in fraud will result in company bosses becoming more and more suspicious of their employees. That is fair enough, but they still need to be fair on the honest staff they do have.
The solution is to put steps in place to prevent theft by employees, without going overboard. The police have issued a list of these steps which include ensuring segregation of duties, regular stock takes and ensuring there are controls over cash flow. They also suggest the company has a means for an employee to report illegal or suspicious behaviour.
This is sound advice because it is better to be safe than sorry.
While you want your employees to be honest, don't give them the opportunity to be dishonest.