Spooks spot sickness scams

January can be a hard month to get through. The glitz of Christmas is over and summer is a long way away – and this can bring out the worst in people. Surveillance research shows that sickness claims are more often found to be dishonest in January than in any other month. 

With an ever-deteriorating compensation culture throughout society, HR managers are increasingly aware of employees who are on long-term sick leave.

They have to consider the possibility that staff could be dishonestly abusing a caring employer, without forgetting that they could be dealing with a loyal employee in a difficult situation. So how can you tell?

Don’t write off the igea of using a commercial private detective agency as a fanciful idea from the movies – it can be an effective method of exposing false claims of sickness or confirming that an employee is ill.

Handle with care
Investigating your employees is a sensitive matter and it should be handled professionally and on well-grounded indications that something might be inaccurate. A healthy suspicion might save your company a lot of money.

Dishonesty comes in many forms and can include simple fabrications such as a falling accident at work, which can then translate into a long-term sickness claim. Over the past 12 months there has been press coverage of filmed evidence of so-called paraplegics playing golf, relatives stealing from one another and even one ‘employee of the month’ working covertly for a competitor.

But it is not always an excuse to take extra holiday. Spurious claims are often made to hide the fact that the individual is taking casual paid employment elsewhere.

How do investigations work?
Investigators need to be subtle but persistent in their approach, to avoid upsetting honest employees.

With fast cars and hidden cameras, surveillance operatives are trained about court procedures and how to produce filmed exhibits. An effective surveillance exercise involves interchanging vehicles and pedestrian personnel to get a clear film of the subject.

Following any investigation the employer will receive a written report detailing every aspect witnessed, and the film corroborating this. Legally, the content cannot be disputed and the operatives cannot be accused of bias towards their client, since the camera does not lie. Such evidence is often used in court or at employment tribunals.

Stephen Hayes is an independent surveillance consultant at Quantum Enquiries and Surveillance

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