Time theft is when an employee is being paid to work, but they’re not.

A few examples of time theft are:

  • persistently starting work late or ending work early
  • longer-than-scheduled breaks
  • excessive time on social media during work time
  • conducting personal errands during work time
  • running a side business during work time
  • having a colleague clock in or out for them

Every year, time theft costs Canadian businesses millions of dollars in productivity losses.

It’s not any one type of business that experiences time theft. No organization or industry is immune to time theft.

Time theft is just as common within corporations and government organizations as it is within restaurants, hospitality, and manufacturers.

The pandemic has increased the possibility of time theft

Time theft is not a new challenge for business operators, but one could argue that the likelihood of time theft occurring has only increased over the last couple of years. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of employees who work remotely (both full-time and part-time) has increased dramatically, with autonomy granted as a result.

For some employers, the assumption of greater time theft occurring is based on simple logic: when an employee is working in the company’s office, they’re being supervised. When an employee works from their home, they’re not being supervised. Less supervision can lead to more time theft.

Initial steps you can take to try and confirm time theft

Suspecting an employee of time theft isn’t enough of a reason to confront them. You need proof before you can act. A couple steps you can take to gain confirmation are:

  • Performance assessments: use clear performance measurements to determine if the employee is meeting performance expectations.
  • Case management and care path check-ins: if the employee is on a modified work plan, compare the work commitment they are exhibiting to what is outlined in the plan they had previously agreed to.

If, after conducting either one of these assessments, the findings are inconclusive, but you still suspect the employee of committing time theft, there are a few options for taking your investigation to the next level.

  • How to obtain more conclusive evidence of time theft

There are three ways to gather more conclusive evidence that an employee is committing time theft:

  1. Add key logging or monitoring software to their computer: this type of tracking technology can be used to measure keystrokes or mouse activity, which will allow you to confirm whether the employing has logged onto their computer and is doing work.
  2. Conduct an Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) investigation with an objective third party: this is the collection and analysis of data gathered from open sources (e.g. the Internet and social media sites). Conducting an OSINT investigation allows the employer to establish the employee’s online footprint so they can get a greater sense of how they are spending their time during the workday. An online footprint may include day-to-day activities, level of functionality, connections with various individuals, or other employment-related activities.Armed with this information, the employer is better equipped to conclude whether the employee is using their work time for working or for personal matters.
  3. Hire a third-party organization to conduct surveillance: when an employee suspected of time theft is under surveillance, they are followed in a discreet, unobtrusive manner, their activities are documented, and evidence is collected. The surveillance is done respecting all privacy and trespass laws and regulations.

It’s worth mentioning that the third-party organization will produce an unbiased report that summarizes what was observed. It is then up to the employer to review the observations in the report and come to their own conclusion on whether the employee is guilty of time theft.

In addition, while surveillance is often utilized when there are suspicions of time theft at work, or of embellished and exaggerated claims, it can also be used to confirm the legitimacy of time use at work or benefit claims.

Follow a measured approach to time theft investigating

Just as in a personal relationship, trust between an employer and employee is imperative if a work relationship is going to be successful. Don’t risk breaking that trust by accusing an employee of time theft before you have sufficient evidence to back up your claim.

Always do your due diligence first.

Follow a methodical, strategic process that starts with a performance management or case management review. If these measures prove inconclusive, escalate your exploration by implementing logging software, an open-source intelligence investigation, or surveillance. Whichever investigative initiative you deploy, they are all proven methods for providing the objective intel you require to confirm whether your suspicions of time theft are true or unfounded.

It’s worth the time to prevent time theft.

By: Xpera Risk Mitigation & Investigation


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