I'm not going to identify this Essex retailer because he still hasn't fired the member of staff who has spent most of her time stealing bits and pieces from him on a daily basis ever since he took over the business and its staff 18 months ago.

He got suspicious early on, and then spent an awful lot of money in the past year - around £10,000 on epos and security cameras so that he could pinpoint some of his wastage problems - and got the proof he needed. After catching her on camera he followed the long-winded procedure of a verbal warning and two written ones (whereas it would have been a case for instant dismissal, but then, hindsight is a fine thing). She had even admitted to petty theft, in writing, which was witnessed. Even then he didn't sack her. "I don't like to fire anyone," he told me.

But at the point where he realised he had no other option but to get rid of her, she went off sick. (He suspects somebody grassed regarding his intentions.)

He consulted the legal helpline of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents who told him he couldn't fire her while she was off sick and would have to pay benefits of £70.05 a week, which he couldn't claim back until the end of the tax year.

I sent the retailer to ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) for a second opinion and also because ACAS will be the mediator if an employee claims unfair dismissal. Unfortunately ACAS confirmed that he can't sack her yet.

The process is messy and laborious. He has to write to her, asking when she might resume duties. If it is a long time, 28 weeks or more, then he needs to get a solicitor to write asking for her GP's opinion.

Of course, when she does come back, she will get the sack. She probably knows this and the retailer doubts that she will return.

Meanwhile, with a struggling business, he has to shoulder the cost of paying her sick pay and can't afford to hire someone else to take her place. "The work is killing me," he told me, "everyone tells me I was too nice."

I wouldn't like to hear what his fellow Essex entrepreneur Sir Alan Sugar would have to say on the subject. At the very least it would be: "You're fired!"