Introduction to this document

Right to search authorisation form

Even if you have a contractually binding right to search policy, carrying out a personal search without an employee’s express consent may constitute both a civil trespass to the person and a criminal assault. Use our stop and search authorisation form to obtain the employee’s prior written consent to search.

Adverse consequences

You can’t force an employee to be searched, even if you have the contractual power to require a search.  This is because you have no general right to touch an employee or to go through their personal belongings without their consent. If you conduct a personal body search, you’re risking committing both the civil and criminal offences highlighted above (plus possibly false imprisonment, which is also a crime). In addition, searching an employee or going through their personal possessions without their agreement risks the fact that they might resign and claim unfair constructive dismissal, citing a breakdown in mutual trust and confidence. So the key here is to ask the employee to give their consent in writing before the search takes place. This is where our Right to Search Authorisation Form comes in.

Express consent

Our form asks an employee to consent to three possible types of searches (just delete the one or ones you don’t need on each particular occasion):

  1. A physical search of their person and the property they’re carrying. 
  2. A search of their work area - locker, desk, cabinets, etc.
  3. A search of their personal or company car if it’s parked on your business premises at the time.

You’ll also need to include the date of the search so it’s clear what exactly they’ve consented to and when - don’t purport to seek their “open” consent now to any possible searches you may wish to carry out in the future. Instead, get the employee’s consent in advance on each occasion you wish to search. Also, your physical search can’t involve overly invasive methods. This is why our form is confined to asking the employee to empty out the contents of their pockets and bags and removing their outer clothing and shoes only. If you purport to require the employee to strip down to their underwear, you’ll not only breach the implied duty of mutual trust and confidence but you may also face allegations of sexual assault or sexual harassment.

Refusal to consent

If you have an express contractual right to search, a refusal by an employee to consent to a search will constitute a breach of contract that can warrant disciplinary action being taken against them under your disciplinary procedure. Our form asks the employee to acknowledge this possible consequence. You should first give them a reasonable opportunity to reconsider their decision to refuse consent.