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Introduction to this document

Right to search policy

If you search an employee without their consent, it not only amounts to the civil offence of trespass but may also constitute a criminal assault. You therefore need to ensure you have a contractually binding right to search policy statement if you do want to conduct staff searches. This doesn’t get round the civil and criminal offences but it means you can take disciplinary action if an employee refuses to agree to being searched.

Disciplinary offence

You can’t force an employee to be searched, even with the contractual power to do so. This is because you have no general right to touch an employee or to go through their personal possessions without their consent. Our Right to Search Policy statement entitles you to carry out a search. By limiting the personal search to outer clothing, shoes, pockets and bags, employees are more likely to be willing to consent to being searched. It would be wholly unreasonable to ask them to strip down to their underwear! We’ve also included the possibility of searching their work area (desk, locker, etc.) and their vehicle if parked on Company premises. Where the employee still refuses to consent to a search, the policy statement entitles you to take disciplinary action against them.

Likewise, the policy provides for you to be able to take disciplinary action if the employee is caught in unauthorised possession of Company property or property belonging to another employee or third party, or is otherwise caught in possession of an item in breach of the policy, such as illegal drugs. Where you think you have enough evidence of theft or other criminal activity, you can also, of course, call the police.


Harassment and discrimination

Searching employees can, in certain cases, amount to sexual harassment. Therefore, our policy statement provides for personal searches to be carried out in private by a same-sex designated security officer but with the right for the employee to have a fellow employee present as a witness. When conducting searches on a random basis, you need to review your search results on a regular basis to ensure that they are indeed entirely random and you are not, for example, predominantly searching members of one particular race, sex, age group, etc. That would amount to unlawful discrimination. Our policy covers the possibility both of random searches and searches where you reasonably suspect that an employee has committed a criminal offence. In the latter case, you likewise need to ensure that your suspicions are on reasonable grounds and are not motivated in any way by unlawful prejudice or discrimination.