Employee search policy

What is an employee search policy and when should you use it?


Many employers have experienced theft by an employee in the workplace.

Others have experienced drug and alcohol abuse.

Consequently, you may need to put certain measures in place in order to protect the profits of the company and the health and safety of your employees.

This Employee Search Policy sets out when and how a company may search its employees.

Where an employer feels it is necessary to search employees it is often damaging to the mutual trust that exists between the parties.

It is important therefore to ensure that where it does become necessary such searches are carried out under strict conditions in order to best preserve the relationship between the employer and the employees.

If the employer wishes to have the option to carry out personal searches, then it is crucial that all details surrounding these searches are clearly communicated to the employees in the contract of employment or policy.

If an employer reserves the right to search an employee’s belongings, then he or she must do so in a dignified manner – giving the employee appropriate levels of privacy.

This Employee Search Policy sets out who will conduct searches and how they will be conducted.

Any employer who may wish to search an employee should have a written policy on how the employee search is targeted and carried out in order to reduce the possibility of discrimination, breach of contract or assault.

Provided a proper Search Policy is adhered to, the chances of an employee bringing a well-founded grievance will be reduced.

There are several significant procedures to observe when performing a personal search.

The individual carrying out the search should be in a management position and, in the interest of clarity, the employees should be made aware in advance who it will be.

The location of the search is also something that should be considered very carefully – it is important to maintain consistency and to carry out searches in an area that offers privacy to the employee involved.

Employees should be notified of the location of the search and, ideally, it should be out of the view of customers and other employees.

The shop floor is not appropriate search setting – the canteen is not suitable either.

Ideally the area should be covered by CCTV in order to prevent a “he said she said” situation from arising.

If this is not possible then a witness should be present so that this scenario is avoided.

Our policy template allows for a witness to attend.

Either way discretion is of cardinal importance.

As is procedure with airline security screening a male should search a male and a female should search a female, although, as the searches should not involve body contact this is less of a priority.

It is essential that the employee is asked to open his or her bag, for instance, and that the person performing the search doesn’t breach privacy by putting their hands into the employee’s bag or on the employee’s person.

Employees should be asked politely to remove any suspicious items from their bag for further inspection – the item/items should be placed on a clear surface in order to ensure that there is no confusion over what was actually in the bag.

The searching employee (management/security where possible) should never assume that an item has not been paid for.

If the item in question was from the store, then the employee should be asked to produce a receipt.


What else might you need?


Workers displaying drug or alcohol-induced behaviour may signal even wider business and employee problems or issues that you should be aware of, which might have been triggered or exacerbated by the behaviour of other employees, or maybe a health and safety risk.

Always handle these situations especially carefully.

You should take a look at all the employment policies in our suite of template documents and also the terms of any employment-related contracts that you already have or are about to put into place.

It’s important to ensure consistency between these documents and that your own versions are fully up-to-date.

Often, while employment policies will cover the procedures and time-frames for how certain employer-employee interactions should be handled, the contract itself will cover the remedies applicable to the outcomes of these procedures, including those relating to the termination of employment contracts.

Take a look at our guides on employee performance management and disciplinary policy and procedure, for more background on handling difficult employee scenarios.

You may also want to consider our booklet on absences.

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