Working from home is now the norm for so many people, but with one in ten employees still expected to continue the trend from September, organisations with large volumes of talent should prepare for risk.
Certainly, during recent months, new measures and incentives have been introduced to attract teams back into the office again, but for those who want to work from home and have greater amounts of responsibility and more confidential company knowledge, this could leave large corporations and even smaller businesses exposed.
In particular, employees’ deep understanding of a business, its data and finances could be compromised at some point.
Corporate private investigator Dave Jones from Reveal PI comments: “The scale of fraud we have investigated during recent years is significant and the risks are very real for organisations.
“In addition to investigations being focused around how much work is actually being done by employees or not, it’s the level of trusted information known and what is being done with it – and the consequence, aside from the financial cost, is serious reputational damage.
“If, in time, organisations are worried about certain individuals’ commitment to the job, or whether particular members of staff are taking advantage of remote working, it’s important to ensure that investigations are undertaken in the right way, are justifiable and proportionate, right from the off.
“In most cases, remote-work fraud shares common grounds with other HR investigations we have conducted previously, such as employee insurance fraud regarding injuries that aren’t quite as serious as they seem – except they involve how company time is used.
Freedom to work
“When employees are given the freedom to work to their own timescales and with reduced levels of supervision, some do – and will – take advantage, and it will impact their ability to fulfil their duties.”
Terminating an employee based on suspicion alone could leave businesses susceptible to unfair dismissal claims so it is important to handle situations delicately.
Dave goes on to say that the first steps should always be to evaluate the source of information (where have the suspicions come from and is it reliable information) and secondly, to check the contract of employment and company handbook to establish whether actions would actually be a breach of employment.
It is at this stage companies may seek professional outside help if a situation has been assessed and they are unable to provide sufficient evidence of their suspicions.
Some employers may be particularly interested in investigating employees who refuse to come back to the office – there may be underlying issues with the employee that need to be considered and every case should be handled with caution, taking the employees physical and mental health into consideration.
Sandra Berns, director at Centric HR says: “Communication at this time is key to alleviating apprehension associated with returning to the office. Whilst it is the employer’s decision whether they require employees to return to the office, employers have a duty of care to make the workplace as safe as possible for staff. It is best practice for employers to develop return-to-work plans with staff.”
Dave concludes: “Fraudulent activity isn’t just for organised crime groups, it is increasingly being committed inside and outside the workplace, online and offline.
“We work with partners from across the public, private and third-party sectors to pursue serious and organised fraudsters, to help make individuals and businesses more resilient to fraud.”