Could you go to jail for bringing home the office stapler?
Stealing office supplies seems like a totally harmless act, one that shouldn’t even be called a crime. But it’s a serious problem for business owners, especially when you take into account how common it is.
According to a 2013 survey by Kessler International, 52% of employees admitted to stealing office supplies from their employers. Most of these thefts were of small things like pens, paper clips, or using the company printer for personal use. However, some admitted to taking home more expensive items like USB drives and computer accessories, reports Credit Donkey.
Which items usually go missing from the office? Here are the findings from a 2010 OfficeMax survey:
Why are employees stealing office supplies?
Out of the employees who admitted to bringing office supplies home:
- 30% said that they brought office supplies home with the intention of bringing them back.
- 25% said that they felt that their employer wouldn’t miss the supplies.
- 27% said that bringing home office supplies was simply easier than purchasing them themselves
- 24% said that they just didn’t have the time to get the items outside of work.
- 9% consider it a work perk (!)
- 6% said that they didn’t have enough money to buy these items themselves
What happens if employers press charges?
Could you possibly go to jail for bringing home a stack of post-its? Technically, yes. In most jurisdictions, theft is punishable with imprisonment, a fine, or both. In Singapore, the penalty for theft is imprisonment for up to three years (or a fine, or both).
Though your boss isn’t likely to press charges for small items, this all depends on your employer’s temperament. If employees are stealing so much that it’s made a significant impact on the business’s bottom line, that could prompt employers to take action, which could range from giving suspensions, laying people off, or taking legal action.
In 2013, a UK man was jailed for stealing office supplies. Sure, he stole more than £121,000 worth of ink cartridges and stationery over a year, but he didn’t realize he had taken so much until he saw the numbers.
It’s a slippery slope. Just buy your own stapler.
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