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HR tip: Burden of proof

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These questions are being answered by Learn HR, a market leader in the provision of HR and payroll training and nationally-recognised professional qualifications.


Question:

"We have every reason to believe that an employee has been stealing stock but not absolute proof. Does this prevent us from taking formal disciplinary action against him and sacking him?"

HR tip:

Probably not. Criminal convictions require a decision 'beyond all reasonable doubt', but in the workplace the burden of proof is less, in that you need to satisfy yourself of an employee's guilt on what is called 'the balance of probability'.

First, you need to have a thorough investigation carried out. Second, conduct a disciplinary hearing in line with your domestic procedure and ACAS guidelines. Third, weigh up the evidence carefully and then consider whether or not you believe the employee to be guilty. If so, then finally consider carefully on what this belief is based. This should be solely on the evidence gathered and not on your suspicions or dislike of the employee. If then you believe that the employee is a thief, you are entitled to dismiss.

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