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Dismissal for theft is damning; indirectly a dismissed employee may be seen as an untried criminal. Employers have long struggled with this sensitive and fraught issue. They often ask if they can set up covert monitoring to discover who is responsible when pilfering occurs, for example.

Where the aim is the protection of an employer’s property and suppression of crime, the European Commission for Human Rights thinks so, subject to certain conditions.

The first question is to ask whether you are reasonably sure that there really is some crime. It should be more than a mere “hunch”; there need to be genuine reasons for suspicion, or secrecy in monitoring cannot be justified.

Next you need to ask if you can obtain the information you need without covert surveillance. So for example it may be practical to establish information about who could have carried out the theft, did they have the opportunity, could it have been someone else? Careful precise accounting can often uncover theft and provide adequate evidence.

Finally, covert surveillance needs to be limited to what is essential to establish the facts required in any particular case. “Blanket” monitoring, if covert, will contravene human rights in the workplace.