Fraud within the workplace is committed at all levels within business. Some businesses experience their staff stealing equipment, others intellectual property but possibly the most common and easiest to perpetrate is the theft of time.
It is reasonable to expect that some employees will occasionally be late for work and sometimes need to leave early, often due to circumstances out of their control. This can be managed. It is however important that your employees start their working day on time and also finish on time. They must also ensure that they complete the hours in-between for which they are being paid. What is becoming apparent is that more and more employees think that it is completely fine to start and finish when they like. Even more seem to think that ‘going missing’ in the middle of the day is also acceptable. It is not.
Clearly, stealing anything including time is not acceptable to any employer and will in the vast majority of cases be a breach of contract.
What are the indicators?
In some cases other members of staff will alert you as to what is going on. Decent employees do not like to see their employer, someone who is paying their wages and into their pension, guaranteeing them sick pay, holiday pay, profit related pay and more being ripped off by a colleague. If nothing else the actions of the few could potentially impact on ‘the good guys’ and you will often find that the good guys will rebel against this blatant lack of respect.
Has productivity dropped? Perhaps you have a building project that is running over but you cannot see how this can be the case. You have committed resources to it, it has been budgeted correctly, the timescales have been realistic since the outset, there have been no notable delays, it should be on time or even ahead of time. We do not believe in coincidences. We question everything, it is in our nature and it should be in yours. Always ask yourself why?
It is often the case that a person who is ‘stealing time’ may also be stealing from you in other areas. Are they responsible for fuelling their own company vehicle via an expenses claim? Do they have access to tools and equipment? Perhaps they are using them on their own ‘private work’? Do they access the company IT systems at an advanced level? Do they have associates working for your competitors?
White collar versus blue collar fraud?
There really is no yardstick here. In-company fraud can and does occur at every level, but not within every company. Not all companies experience bad employees and not all fraud is committed by so called blue collar workers, that is workers ‘on the shop floor’ or ‘manual workers, particularly those working in industry’.
It’s fair to say is that fraud being committed by white collar workers (working in an office or another professional environment) could have far reaching effects on the company. What often occurs is collusion between those in managerial positions and those on the shop floor. If this is the case then your chances of identifying the fraud are made more difficult as the manager who could be identifying it may well be involved with helping facilitate it.
As a manager can you just turn a blind eye if you suspect fraud? All employees should consider it a duty of care to each other in this respect but as a manager you have a responsibility to investigate suspected fraud.
The Guardian article (1) should make an interesting read for the managers amongst you.
Policies and Procedures
What policies and procedures do you have in place? Are your employees regularly updated with company policy and any changes made to it? Do you have a clear ‘Timekeeping Policy’? It should state that employees have no right to be paid for time not worked and that it is a disciplinary offence.
Where do you stand legally?
An employer in accordance with the employment practice code written and governed by the information commissioner's office (ICO) clearly states:
‘Employers have a right to protect themselves, their business and its interests’
The ICO should not be seen as the enemy, they assist us in many investigations providing advice and guidance when needed. They also provide assurance to employers who may not have a dedicated HR department to deal with the policy or indeed fully understand the Data Protection act 1998 and how it can help to keep us all on the right side of the law.
Taking Action - Covert Monitoring
Covert monitoring in the form of physical surveillance or technical monitoring such as covert CCTV or covert tracking for a persistent offender could be a serious consideration. We have carried out many successful timekeeping investigations saving businesses thousands of pounds. However it should not be taken lightly by senior management. Ideally professional advice from a member of The Association of British Investigators should always be taken prior to any monitoring to ensure the correct process is followed and we can all stay on the right side of the law.