Editor’s comment

Many readers will be realising first hand that an economic downturn generates extra work for HR, and not just in dealing with redundancies.

For one, workplace fraud is likely to rise as employees find they’re having to tighten their belts. Typically some will be tempted to falsify expenses claims upwards in the hope that employers won’t notice.

Evidence indicates that the practice is widespread. Accountancy firm BDO Stoy Hayward estimates that employee fraud cost UK companies more than £77m in the first half of 2008.

That fraudulent expenses is a growing problem for employers was also indicated by Employment Law Advisory Services which reported a 36% rise in the number of queries about expenses frauds that it had received in the three months up to October.

The sad truth is that if employees with a dishonest streak spot a weakness in HR systems they are likely to exploit it. And it’s not just fiddling expenses: abuse of procurement responsibilities and taking advantage of slackly-applied flexible working arrangements can also provide opportunities for latter day Artful Dodger characters.

It’s up to those in charge of HR policy to apply forensic logic to policies governing areas where fraud is possible or likely. This may mean, for example, applying higher vetting standards to those working in procurement or with the responsibility for authorising spend or expenses.

This can be dull and plodding work but done properly it can avert difficult and even embarrassing outcomes. Also HR departments, instead of cringeing when someone is dismissed for fiddling, should broadcast it throughout their organisations – it will encourager les autres to behave.

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