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Can I legally recover the costs of goods stolen/defrauded by employees?

Yes, you can but there are various different processes that you must follow. The first point is that you may not take the law into your own hands.  Legally, the employer may not make a deduction from the employees pay, other than in terms of section 32(4) of the BCEA –and this does not seem to contemplate payments on termination of employment, but rather continuing deductions whilst the employee remains in employment.

Despite the fact that this deduction is unlawful,many employers will, nevertheless, resort to it.

Broadly speaking, if you wish to recover your goods, or the value, you will need to mount a civil action against the employee, which may be cold comfort if they are men/women of straw.


However, certainly in the metal industry, and, we understand, as a provision in the Pension’s legislation, an employer may get restitution for loss which occurs through the employees dishonesty from funds the employee has in the pension/provident fund, if there is a successful criminal prosecution.

Finally, in the case of a criminal case, the magistrate can be asked for a restitution order as part of the proceedings in a criminal matter, and, may, subject to certain limitations, make such an award.

Of course, the employer may enter into a private civil agreement with the employee to pay the money back.  This is often done in return for the employer not reporting the matter to the police, not having an enquiry, but allowing the employee to resign or similar.  This is up to each employer, but if it is done, it should become the subject of a written and signed admission of debt.

What is probably not a good idea, is to keep the dishonest employee at work whilst he pays you back.

On the one hand, this may be tantamount to condonation, on the other; he may just steal a little more just to even out the balance!