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Tom87

Charged by employer for property stolen in office during fire drill

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Hi all, thanks in advance for reading and any advice. I'll try to be as concise as possible.

 

I have an iPhone provided by my work. It states on the iPhone Policy that if you lose the phone or it is stolen, you will have the price of the iPhone taken off the next payslip. The only exception is if you can provide a police certificate that it was stolen, but there is a sub-exception here that states you still have to pay if the theft was facilitated to clear negligence on your part, e.g. leaving it unsupervised in a public place.

 

In November 2015 there was a fire drill at work. I immediately left the building. When the drill ended and I returned to my office, my work phone had been stolen off my desk.

 

When I informed Asset Management of the theft, the person at the desk seemed understanding and stated verbally that this should be OK and I shouldn't be charged as when there is a fire drill, you must leave immediately and not stop to pick up personal belongings. I was provided with a new work phone a few days later and there were no other comments made by them.

 

Come end of November, I have £300 taken off my payslip for the cost of a new iPhone 5. Before even considering whether they can do this, the price is not right. They currently retail on Amazon at £251, and I strongly suspect my employer gets them at a far lower price seeing as they order hundreds for their employees. So they are making a profit on this.

 

By email, I questioned the deduction (and the price). In their email reply, they didn't dispute my story but said I was negligent as I should have taken the phone with me. I pointed to the fire regulations, which state, word for word: "...evacuate the building immediately and do not stop for any personal belongings. Delaying the evacuation to gather personal belongings risks the lives of you and your colleagues and may constitute gross misconduct."

 

Their reply to this was that it was "obvious" that small items like your phone don't count in this rule, as your phone will be sitting on your desk (where we have a dedicated power cable for our phones) and so you will lose no time in picking it up. And they said making a police report for theft is pointless as it was now "too long ago" and in any case I was negligent (see 1st para.).

 

I also raised the fact that there is CCTV - not in my office, but in the hall adjoining it. I.e. my office door is in clear view of the camera, so can see everyone who enters or leaves the office. This is the only door to the office. Even if the phone isn't recovered, I told them they can at least find out who stole it, on a matter of principle/ethics. They replied "data protection" and were extremely obstructive. What's the point of CCTV in this location if not to stop things being stolen from the premises or find the people who do steal?

 

I issued a written reply by recorded delivery, challenging the deduction by quoting the fire regulations and stating that no exceptions are listed. I received no reply. I waited for my December payslip and there was no £300 refund.

 

Where do I stand here? I was simply following the fire regulations. I am not in a trade union. Would CAB be a good start? Could I also claim interest on the money they are withholding from me? I have been careful not to mention legal threats as I know most people who say this never act on it. I am now at the stage where I would be happy to leave/lose my job to fight this. Threatening with going to the press would be futile as they are a very large company that has had a few controversies in the past and couldn't care less about negative coverage. Even if I can't get a refund on the facts, can I challenge the amount that they deducted as it is considerably more than the retail value of the phone?

 

Thanks in advance, sorry for the long post!

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Raise a formal greivance?


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Hi all, thanks in advance for reading and any advice. I'll try to be as concise as possible.

 

I have an iPhone provided by my work. It states on the iPhone Policy that if you lose the phone or it is stolen, you will have the price of the iPhone taken off the next payslip. The only exception is if you can provide a police certificate that it was stolen, but there is a sub-exception here that states you still have to pay if the theft was facilitated to clear negligence on your part, e.g. leaving it unsupervised in a public place.

 

In November 2015 there was a fire drill at work. I immediately left the building. When the drill ended and I returned to my office, my work phone had been stolen off my desk.

 

When I informed Asset Management of the theft, the person at the desk seemed understanding and stated verbally that this should be OK and I shouldn't be charged as when there is a fire drill, you must leave immediately and not stop to pick up personal belongings. I was provided with a new work phone a few days later and there were no other comments made by them.

 

Come end of November, I have £300 taken off my payslip for the cost of a new iPhone 5. Before even considering whether they can do this, the price is not right. They currently retail on Amazon at £251, and I strongly suspect my employer gets them at a far lower price seeing as they order hundreds for their employees. So they are making a profit on this.

 

By email, I questioned the deduction (and the price). In their email reply, they didn't dispute my story but said I was negligent as I should have taken the phone with me. I pointed to the fire regulations, which state, word for word: "...evacuate the building immediately and do not stop for any personal belongings. Delaying the evacuation to gather personal belongings risks the lives of you and your colleagues and may constitute gross misconduct."

 

Their reply to this was that it was "obvious" that small items like your phone don't count in this rule, as your phone will be sitting on your desk (where we have a dedicated power cable for our phones) and so you will lose no time in picking it up. And they said making a police report for theft is pointless as it was now "too long ago" and in any case I was negligent (see 1st para.).

 

I also raised the fact that there is CCTV - not in my office, but in the hall adjoining it. I.e. my office door is in clear view of the camera, so can see everyone who enters or leaves the office. This is the only door to the office. Even if the phone isn't recovered, I told them they can at least find out who stole it, on a matter of principle/ethics. They replied "data protection" and were extremely obstructive. What's the point of CCTV in this location if not to stop things being stolen from the premises or find the people who do steal?

 

I issued a written reply by recorded delivery, challenging the deduction by quoting the fire regulations and stating that no exceptions are listed. I received no reply. I waited for my December payslip and there was no £300 refund.

 

Where do I stand here? I was simply following the fire regulations. I am not in a trade union. Would CAB be a good start? Could I also claim interest on the money they are withholding from me? I have been careful not to mention legal threats as I know most people who say this never act on it. I am now at the stage where I would be happy to leave/lose my job to fight this. Threatening with going to the press would be futile as they are a very large company that has had a few controversies in the past and couldn't care less about negative coverage. Even if I can't get a refund on the facts, can I challenge the amount that they deducted as it is considerably more than the retail value of the phone?

 

Thanks in advance, sorry for the long post!

IMO you need to submit a formal written complaint stating that you did not violate company policy and therefore they were incorrect in deducting the cost of the phone from your pay. Provide a copy of the company fire drill policy and ask them to show where in the policy it states that small items are not classed as personal items under the policy. Also, as the phone was left on company property ask them where in the company policies it shows that the company is not liable or responsible for the loss of the phone as you hold the company liable for the loss due to them not securing the office and allowing the theft of phone. Inform them that you require payment of the £300 within 14 days or you will consider your legal options.

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As above. Formal grievance. There was no negligence, apart from that of the company in not investigating a theft of company property.


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How many people are there in the office? How big is it?


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Thank you for the helpful replies. I will do the formal grievance then. In the building are about 500 employees. There are six of us in my office.

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I would also be tempted to report the theft to the police. That way you will have a crime reference number and investigation and it may go further towards proving your employer had no right to deduct.

 

You also need to bear in mind the three month limitation period - I would contact the police and then contact ACAS to start early conciliation for unlawful deductions from your wages.

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Are you not able to use "Find my iPhone" to locate it? At least it should be able to be locked and blocked.

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Are you not able to use "Find my iPhone" to locate it? At least it should be able to be locked and blocked.

 

 

|Snap, I thought these smart phones had some kind of inbuilt GPS. Has there been any use of the phone - phone bills should be able to answer that one ?


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You say that the policy states you must pay the replacement cost unless you have a policy report, but that doesn't apply if you have been negligent.

 

Assuming that you agreed to the policy when you were provided with the phone, it sounds to me like the employer is entitled to charge you. This is because you do not have a police report. Under the wording of the policy, the question of whether you are negligent or not only comes into the picture if you have a police report.

 

There might be a legal argument that the employer was not allowed to deduct from your wages unless they can prove you agreed to the policy in writing or it is part of your contract (see http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1996/18/section/13).

 

Ultimately, if you want to push this forward, you can raise a grievance and kick up a stink. If that doesn't get you anywhere, you could raise a small claim against your employer through the moneyclaimonline service. Is it really worth suing your employer over £300? I doubt it, but that's your decision.


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You say that the policy states you must pay the replacement cost unless you have a policy report, but that doesn't apply if you have been negligent.

 

Assuming that you agreed to the policy when you were provided with the phone, it sounds to me like the employer is entitled to charge you. This is because you do not have a police report. Under the wording of the policy, the question of whether you are negligent or not only comes into the picture if you have a police report.

 

 

Sorry I don't agree. The fire drill policy, according to to OP, which is part of a requirement under statute under health and safety regs, states that to leave premises and do not take any belongings with you. This would override any contractual obligation the company set. Imo

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Simply call the police non-emergency number and make a report. Then you have a police report and reference number you can give to your employer.

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Yep, get a crime number and let employer know that you have done so and have a word with whoever is in charge of the CCTV data that you have done this and want the footage kept as potential evidence. They are not obliged to but it would make it harder to defnd their actions and at a pinch get them a warning from the police about failing to help an officer in the execution of his duties by deliberately destroying evidence of a crime.

Mind you, do ordinary police officers investigate crimes any more?

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Raise a grievance; you should have also been notified of the deduction before they took it, preferably in writing.

 

I would also call 101 and report to local police explaining why you have to report it.

Really your employer should report it as it is their property.

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open

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Thank you BankFodder for your help in re-opening the thread!

 

Just a small update about this. Thanks to everyone again for your very helpful advice.

 

The reason I never reported back was because a settlement was reached with my now-former employer regarding this matter.

I am not allowed to talk about the terms of the settlement, and I was not allowed to mention its very existence for 4 years

 

(hence now I can reveal that, and finally tell my ex-colleagues and friends the truth).

 

But I can say that you helped me in doing this, so thank you genuinely for that, as there were a number of things I would not have thought of without your comments, which helped me in reaching the solution!

 

Have a great day all.

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Thanks for the update. Of course we are all extremely curious now because we would like to know what the settlement was – and also who the employer was.

It's amazing that they felt that they had to accompany this by a Non Disclosure Agreement. It seems to me that the result was a foregone conclusion. I can't imagine that they penalised you the cost of the phone.

Do tell…!


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NDA's are not worth the paper they are written on unless they gave you a lot more than your would have earnt during the qualifying period so reporting their misbhaviour when they have only paid you off a small amount wont cost you if they do decide to try and enforce it because the damages they can recover will be nil. If they paid you a million quid to keep quiet then it would be another matter as they could ask for a sizeable proportion of that back

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