4 in 10 respondents to a recent survey (by software company webexpenses) admitted that they had fiddled their expenses. This is maybe not a HUGE surprise to you,  however, shockingly the total sum of those amounts could relate to as much as £100 million a year lost from businesses across the UK.  

Many employees made little tweaks to their actual expense claims, some completely false but mainly it seems, exaggerated, with them citing travel as an area where they didn't feel guilty elaborating on the truth (almost 50% of respondents said that they had claimed for more miles than they had actually travelled).

Surely a little bit doesn't hurt right? Of course, the individual exaggerations may be relatively small – which is perhaps why 8 in 10 workers had never had their claims challenged or denied – but if you don't watch it they can really stack up, and be a real cash drain for many businesses. Adam Reynolds, CEO at webexpenses, mentions that there had been a “shift to more subtle methods” that didn’t raise big causes for concern, and that the culture of fraudulent claims was changing.

So it is likely that you may have the same issue so with the new year approaching, now might be the time to do a bit of an update on your policy, make your expectations on expenses clear and do a bit of scare mongering to throw a bit of caution out there to those that may have been abusing the system slighty. After all, what’s the point in working furiously to achieve your revenue goals, when you’re wasting cash unnecessarily? Take a look below at our top tips for combatting fraudulent claims…

Create a robust policy so your employees know exactly what the process should look like

Do your members of staff really know what’s expected of them when it comes to claiming for expenses? Does your policy clearly state what they can claim for, and how they should do it? Are your current processes clear and well communicated, or are they vague and not really adhered to?

Creating a policy that’s fit for purpose is often the first step towards stamping out any future problems. Everyone from your staff to their line managers should be aware of how they should claim, and what they’ll be entitled to.

Conduct regular checks

The survey found that very few companies carried out adequate checks when claims were submitted. This inevitably means that mistakes are being made – sometimes, even because of genuine human error – and a culture of over claiming can be the norm.

You might decide to give line managers responsibility for carrying out checks at stipulated intervals, or do monthly checks on random claims.  What’s important is that there’s a process in place, and someone really owns it.

Keep things simple

Many companies have long winded expense-claiming provisions that are time consuming for everyone involved (seriously - do you need that many people signing things off??). Improving how you do things isn’t about adding in more hoops to jump through, or making things more complicated. It might even be the case that you need to go back to basics, and take out unnecessary steps in the process .

Use technology. This is definitely one of those areas where tech can definitely save you bucketloads of time. Requiring staff to keep track of receipts can turn into an administrative nightmare, and there are now tonnes of apps on the market that can make your life a load easier: many of our clients use FreeAgent, Xero and Concur to manage without the piles of paper receipts weighing down drawers everywhere.....

It’s important to recognise that many of your staff members will be making accurate expense claims, and are simply being suitably compensated for costs that they’ve genuinely incurred. It’s never wise to start throwing around accusations or making your staff feel like their honesty is being questioned. But in order to ensure that fraudulent expense claims don’t damage your business, get started with considering how you can implement these key points. 

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Image : Twenty20

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