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'Time Fraud': Are Your Employees Stealing Your Time?

Are your employees time frauds?

COVID-19 has changed the way we live and function, but it has also opened opportunities for workplaces to adapt and change. Certain jobs always have required their employees to drive or travel, but presently office roles are adapting to the COVID-19 climate and allowing workers the freedom to work from home. This evolving climate can lead to employees taking advantage of these freedoms and not fulfilling the duties and tasks that are required of them. As employers, there is a fine line between trusting your staff to independently meet deadlines and ensuring they are actually working.

Patrolling or Procrastinating?

In October 2020, the Fair Work Commission upheld a decision regarding the dismissal of the Applicant, a council worker accused of ‘time fraud’. The Applicant was employed as an Animal Management Officer for the Southern Midlands Council for 3 years. The job description included using a Council vehicle and patrolling around the local area. The vehicle was only to be used for work duties and commuter use in accordance with the Council’s Motor Vehicle Policy.

Around August 2019, the Applicant’s neighbour made a complaint that a Southern Midlands vehicle had been hooning in the early morning. As a result, the Council investigated the GPS records of the Applicant but found no evidence of hooning. However, they did find that the Applicant had been using the vehicle for private use. Over 12 months, the GPS records indicated that the Applicant had visited her partner's residence ninety times during her work hours. The records also showed that she would often start working 2 hours later than her start time. The Council found that the Applicant had engaged in ‘time fraud’ and breached the Motor Vehicle Policy, as such, she was terminated for serious misconduct.

The Applicant claimed the dismissal was unfair on the basis that her role did not require specific working hours and that it included ‘patrolling’ the area which meant at times she was near her partner’s residence. The Fair Work Commission (FWC) considered the Applicant’s terms of employment, role, and duties, contracted hours of work, and the Council’s internal policies. The FWC held that the Applicant had engaged in ‘time fraud’ for two main reasons:

  1. The Applicant spent significant amounts of time not working or travelling to her partner’s home when she claimed to be working; and

  2. The Applicant drove her work supplied vehicle extensively for private use which was in breach of the Motor Vehicle Policy which states she could only use the vehicle for commuter use.

The FWC concluded that the Applicant had misrepresented her activities for a long period and deceived her employer – as a result, her actions were found to be deliberate and willful.

Working from Home

Are your employees being honest with how they are spending their time?

As an employer ‘tim