Tis the season to be light-fingered: Workplace thefts set rise in December

Pressure on pay packets leaves workers open to Yuletide crime

Theft and fraud in the workplace rises in December as workers turn to crime to help fund their seasonal celebrations.

While workplace theft is a year-round phenomenon, a national health safety consultancy says that the pressure to “enjoy” the festive season result in a spike in incidents around Christmas that lead to disciplinary action, dismissal and police involvement.

The Protecting.co.uk consultancy says that this is a time for employers and colleagues to be extra vigilant, to ensure that Christmas time really is a season of goodwill.

“It’s a sad fact that people feel under pressure to spend more to feel like they’re having a ‘proper’ Christmas,” says Protecting.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall, “And living outside your means sometimes makes people turn to desperate measures.”

While the huge majority of employees are trustworthy and honest, just one person taking advantage of their employer’s generosity can spoil Christmas for many people, Protecting says.

After speaking to a number (650) of employers and employees about workplace theft around Christmas, Protecting.co.uk found cases of:

• Theft of stock
• Theft of work property
• Cash thefts
• Misuse of company credit card
• Misuse of employee benefit schemes

“While some of these were minor cases that resulted in a rebuke or official warning, others resulted in losses of hundreds of pounds and the involvement of police,” Hall said.

Among the cases told to Protecting.co.uk – and reported here with full permission are:

• An employee abusing the free soft drinks in the staff kitchen to build up a stock at home for the kids. This was resolved with a warning and the embarrassed employee refunding the company.

• Saleable items being marked as damaged goods, then being taken home to give as presents. This is a story Protecting heard several times from employers in the retail sector.

• The person in charge of buying drinks for the Christmas party purchasing extra spirits and beer for their own use on the company credit card. They were found out when they drunkenly boasted about it during the office Christmas party.

• A senior staff member who over-ordered laptop computers as part of company procurement to give three away as presents to family. Police called, employee dismissed.

• A member of a company’s sales team adding alcohol purchases when filling the car with fuel on a company card. Discovered when the accounts department questioned why it took £120 to fill up a Ford Focus. The money was repaid, and the employee handed a final warning.

“In our experience, the most commonly excuse for this kind of activity is the guilty party saying they felt under pressure to overspend in the run-up to Christmas,” says Hall.

“With in-your-face advertising starting before we’ve even had Guy Fawke’s Night, the temptation to live beyond your means during the festive season is greater than ever,” he continues.

However, the Protecting.co.uk spokesperson says workplace fraud and theft is not the solution for those tempted to fund their Christmas by other means, and it’s down to both managers and colleagues to watch out for crime.

Protecting.co.uk said that honesty and vigilance are best for all parties at this time of year: “No boss wants a legal case hanging over the company at Christmas,” says Hall, “And no worker wants to be looking for a job in the New Year.”