EMPLOYEE TIME THEFT while working remotely
With the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers switched to working remotely. For some employers, this is a new practice, and it can be challenging for employees who may have never done it before. Working remotely not only requires the right tools and work set up, it also demands employee’s discipline. Most of us become distracted and struggle to get things done as our partners, kids or pets seek our attention while working at home. Although employers do not want to assume the worst of their employees, time theft continues to be a common and expensive issue of concern.
Time theft happens when employees manipulate the employer to get paid for time they did not put into their work. Essentially, employees steal time during “work” to engage in personal or non-business related activities or mislead the employer about their whereabouts. Sometimes, the employee simply does nothing, surfs the internet and neglects to complete the amount of work necessary during their shifts.
Unlike stealing tangibles like company money or property, time theft is one of the least noticeable ways to steal from the company. It can cost employer’s time, money and clients, if unchecked. With working remotely, it becomes even harder for employers to monitor and track time theft.
However, to reduce the risk of time theft from employees working remotely, employers may consider the following:
- Setting clear schedules on break and lunch times, to ensure employee’s expected availability at a certain time;
- Establishing rules on employee availability to be contacted during working hours, with the expectation that they be in their quiet home office;
- Using digital collaborative tools to monitor work performed; and
- Employers can compare the output of employees against their colleagues or the employees own output while not working remotely.
Without some objective proof that an employee claimed more time than they worked, it may be difficult to prove time theft for employees that work remotely. In this case, the most an employer can do is provide a warning that any further incidents of time theft will lead to termination. However, where there is objective proof of time theft, such an employee will face disciplinary consequences. This could be a just cause termination for misconduct or even a lawsuit in some cases. Theft and fraud are two of the few forms of misconduct that courts consider to be just cause for dismissal.
In all, working remotely has come to stay, therefore, it is key for employers to develop remote working policies that make sense for their business and are clear in their expectations of employees that work remotely.
Author: Calista Nwaiwu
Also read: I was fired for time theft. Is this legal?