Are you really sure you know everything about bag checks at work?

If theft is a major problem at your workplace, you can do a bag search. (

You need to make sure that no one's rights are infringed when you subject employees to bag searches. We've summarised the best practices.

Many employees believe that they have the right to their privacy, for example:

• “How dare you scratch through my things”

• “This is my property, don’t touch!”

• “I didn’t do anything wrong, you have no right…”

And they are right, specifically referring to section 14 of the constitution:

Read: Are workplace lie detector tests legal?

"Everyone has the right to privacy, which includes the right not to have -

(a) their person or home searched

(b) their property searched

(c) their possessions seized; or

(d) the privacy of their communications infringed."

(In other words, you cannot frisk anyone, ransack their home or property, confiscate their possessions or read any of their messages or listen into any conversations.)

But at the same time, employers have their rights too. Including the right to protect their property. And one of the ways to do protect their property especially from theft is to conduct bag searches. But this is a slippery slope because you run the risk of infringing your employees' basic human rights if you don't have the proper measure in place.

Searching bags without the consent of your employee is in violation of their privacy. The smartest thing an employer can do is include a clause in the employment contract that clearly states that employees can be searched.

The only way to do a legal bag search at a company is if:

• the company implements a policy that employees are aware of

• the policy implemented by the company ensures that employees acknowledge the necessity for searches

Read: Issuing warnings in the workplace

• the consequences; refusal to be searched could result in disciplinary action or dismissal

• the searches aren’t done in public

• the person doing the search has to be female if the person being searched is female and the person doing the search has to be male if the person being searched is male

Be sure to specify that searches should not prejudice or target any one individual. Make it clear in your policy that all baggage, vehicles or any of an employee's movable property that is brought onto your property can be searched. Also make it absolutely clear that those who don’t want their things searched, should not bring their stuff on the property in the first place.

The last thing you want is to illegally dismiss an employee who steals, only to lose the CCMA case, and subsequently be forced to reinstate the thief. 

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