Inexcusable excuses – the winners

Back in April, we asked you to send in tales of the most ridiculous expense claims you have seen after an incredulous Personnel Today reader was asked to sign off the cost of a tiara by one of his staff.

We were inundated with stories of financial cheekiness, but the quality of the entries was so high that we decided on a joint first prize. The winners will receive a set of leading management books.

Our first correspondent – who asked not to be named – recalled a former employee who had been appointed in southern England to work in the Scottish Highlands. The terms and conditions of employment were clearly laid out as to what he was entitled to.

“When he arrived, he discovered that the local manager was not privy to what he was allowed to purchase, and so began his spending spree,” our man in Scotland reveals.

At the top of the list were three fittings in Perth for a tweed suit at £345, the suit itself for £750, and mileage for three round-trips to Perth costing £360.

Next up were four bottles of malt whisky for “entertainment purposes” – a snip at £420, you’ll agree. And well worth the 100 mileage for the round-trip to Glasgow to purchase the booze.

He didn’t stop there though, claiming £240 for the purchase of field glasses and £100 mileage for the round-trip to Edinburgh to purchase said items.

It was all wrapped up with a £1,680 claim for meals to entertain trades people and clients, which meant the overall claim was worth £3,995.

However, our spy adds: “Our man even had the front to round it up to £4,000 to save the accountant’s time.”

Our next tall tale from a cheeky staff member was sent in verbatim by an office manager, who also requested anonymity.

“When I woke up Monday morning, my cat was very unwell and should have gone to the vet immediately. Unfortunately, I had to be in work early (8am) and was unable to take him, as the vet did not open until 9am.

“I was also unable to take him in at lunchtime, as I had urgent work to do, and getting home, taking him to the vet, talking to the vet and getting back to work would have been very time consuming,” the staff member said.

“The option of taking him by 7.30pm when the vet shut was also unavailable as problems with production meant I did not leave work until 8pm.

“By the time I got home, Jasper’s condition had worsened considerably, so I had no option, but to take him in as an emergency. However, because this was after hours, I was charged an extra £63 (receipt available as proof).

“I would have asked my parents under normal circumstances to take him to the vet for me, but they were away on a long weekend – and no-one else would have had a key for my house or a cat basket.

“In a nutshell, is there any way I can claim that money back from the company? After all, there was no way I could get out between 8am and 8pm.”

At the time of going to press, it was unclear whether our cat lover was paid. But sources close to Jasper revealed he was in tip-top condition after the emergency treatment.

Excuses, excuses

Last month, we asked you to send in examples of the most far-fetched excuses you had heard for employees being late.

Helen Gough, HR manager at bakery products manufacturer Warburtons, starts us off with someone who had clearly walked under a ladder and broken a mirror.

“One employee – having a pattern of being consistently late – gave the excuse: on trying to come to work, he got stuck in the lift at his flat, and had to wait for the engineer, which meant he missed the bus, and then while walking to work had his foot stamped on by a horse so had to hobble. I am surprised he made it all,” she says.

If that has a ring of a schoolboy excuse, you ain’t heard nothing yet.

Sally Jacobson, HR director at London & Quadrant Housing Trust, recalls an incident that always brings a smile to her face.

“As an HR director for 20 years, the one that always makes me laugh was some years ago when a man – who was often late for work – arrived late again and handed in a letter to personnel from his mother.

“The letter explained that ‘she was sorry that Alan (aged 45) was late for work, but his hot water bottle burst last night’.

“We felt it would be unkind to question him further – we didn’t really want any more information. He left our employment soon after.”

But the winner of a bottle of champagne is Alison Stott, senior HR consultant at Essex County Council, with two tales of animal madness.

“A colleague in a previous organisation was late for work because he could not get his trousers cleaned, as there was a frog in the washing machine.”

“In another incident, an employee explained he was late because a hamster had chewed through his alarm clock cable.”

This is so ridiculous, it could well be true.

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