Frequently Asked Employment Questions

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Document updated/added on 29.05.2019

Topic: Company and staff handbooks

Do we have an automatic right to search an employee?

No, you don't. If you want to be able to do this you will need to retain the right to carry out a search in your employment contracts and state under what circumstances they will happen, e.g. if you've reason to believe that a theft has occurred on your premises. But even if you've retained the contractual right to do this an employee could still refuse you permission to carry it out (although you may then be able to discipline them for breach of contract in refusing to consent). If they refuse to consent, unless you want to risk a complaint of assault, report the matter and your suspicions to the police and let them conduct a search. But if they do agree to be searched, it must: (1) be carried out by a person of the same sex; (2) take place in private; and (3) if possible, be conducted by someone of the same ethnic or religious group, particularly where the employee is subject to strict religious or cultural requirements. You should also let the employee be accompanied by a colleague if they wish. Tip. A search should only involve the removal of outer clothing, e.g. jackets and footwear, and bags, lockers and work areas.