What happens if your employer says you stole from them?

Let’s imagine that you’re a senior worker in a branch management position for a national organisation. 


Falsely accused by your employer – what can you do?

Post Office

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You have a trusted position involved with serving the public and handling thousands of pounds on a daily basis at your branch. 

 

The company launches a new all-encompassing accounting and CMS system that will make your job easier but after a little while using it, you begin to notice that it’s making some errors. 

 

Not just minor bugs either but sizeable accounting errors that mean that your accounts and inventories rarely, if ever, balance. 

 

You raise your concerns but the company doesn’t agree – it maintains that its system is infallible – it actually then goes onto to accuse you of fraud and theft and looks to prosecute you. 

 

You may have lost your livelihood and career with the company as well as your good name and in some cases, freedom. 

 

This is what happened to some 550 former sub postmasters after the Post Office installed a new IT system called Horizon between 1999 and 200. The errors made by the system caused accounting shortfalls which resulted in criminal charges, bankruptcy, mental health problems and even jail for some of them. 

 

They claimed the Post Office had not trained them properly in the IT system and that they were misled over its reliability. 

 

This week a High Court judge not only found in their favour but passed evidence onto the director of public prosecutions saying he has “very grave concerns about the veracity of evidence” given by Fujitsu, the Post Office’s IT contractor who installed the system. 

 

Mr Justice Fraser said that Post Office denials about Horizon being plagued by bugs “amounts to the 21st century equivalent of maintaining that the earth is flat.”

 

“The approach by the Post Office to the evidence of some of the witnesses demonstrates a simple institutional obstinacy or refusal to consider any possible alternatives to their view of the Horizon system which was maintained regardless of the weight of factual evidence to the contrary.”

 

The Post Office agreed to pay a £58m settlement and Chairman Tim Parker said: “In reaching the settlement with the claimants, we’ve accepted our past shortcomings and I, both personally and on behalf of the Post Office, sincerely apologised to those affected when we got things wrong. 

 

“We have given a commitment to learning lessons from these events, and today’s judgement underlines the need to do so.”

 

The judgement could also influence some 34 criminal convictions still registered against sub postmasters which are currently being reviewed by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. If overturned, the claimants could bring charges of malicious prosecution against the Post Office. 

 

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Sometimes you can do everything right in a business and things can still go wrong – although rarely as disastrously as they did for the sub postmasters. 

 

If you’ve played by the rules and still keep ending up back at square one, get in touch with us today. 

 

We can’t advise what to do if you’re facing jail (although we have written about what happens if your boss ends up in the clink), but our expert advisers can let you know what you can do to make your business as efficient and effective as it can be. 

 

Anything else would be criminal.

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