Your employees are stealing from you and you aren't even aware of it

You may be worried about your employees stealing money, data or even pens but one of the most common forms of employee theft these days is actually the stealing of time. Time theft is where employees are being paid for work that they didn’t actually carry out.  An obvious example of this is if a worker is completing a timesheet and rounds up the hours they worked, adding an extra 10 – 15 minutes of time they did not actually work. This may sound like nothing, but if the worker continually did this over the course of a year, it would become very costly for the company.  To put this into perspective, if you had 25 employees being paid at £10 p/h and each of them did this on a weekly basis, it could end up costing you between £10,825.00 and £16,250.00 per year. And for what?  Now, it’s very unlikely that as a recruitment agency you are paying your consultants using a timesheet based system, however the above example can easily be put into the context of a recruitment agency.

We have found the three main ways that time theft is committed:-


One of the biggest causes of ‘time theft’ is break abuse. For example, are a lot of your staff smokers? Where they are taking extra breaks throughout the day to have a “quick cigarette”, it’s actually costing you money (and probably business), and also very likely making the non-smokers feel disgruntled. After all, why should the smokers amongst the office be allowed several short breaks throughout the day where non-smoking employees aren’t? Now this is not to say that you should place firm ban on cigarette breaks in the office, especially if this is something that has been allowed for a long time. Perhaps it would be a good idea to regulate these breaks to ensure that you aren’t ending up out of pocket and that your other staff feel that they are all being treated fairly. One option could be asking your smoking employees to take 15 minutes out of their lunch hour, and breaking this into 3 separate cigarette breaks throughout the day. With such a solution, your non-smoking employees will be happy as it demonstrates equality, the smokers will be happy because they can still have their cigarette breaks and ultimately you shouldn’t be losing out on any work time from your staff. Extended lunch breaks are another main player when it comes to employees taking extra time. It’s really easy for what is supposed to be an hour’s lunch break to trickle into 1.5 hours and so on. The best way to monitor this is to ensure that your managers/ team leaders are stringent with their staff and make sure that no one is taking advantage. (Of course, this relies upon your managers being sin-free when it comes to time theft!)


Another ‘black hole’ that many of your employees may find themselves in rather than working is the internet. Whether it be online shopping, browsing social media or checking their personal email, doing personal things on the internet whilst at work is a massive time waster for your agency. Research shows that 61% of surveyed employees use Facebook for approximately 15 minutes per day when they should be working – this directly feeds into the above figures that shows how much this is costing your agency. Those 15 valuable minutes could have been spent closing a deal with a client or onboarding a candidate. It’s even more difficult to try and regulate the abuse of using personal social media within the recruitment sector as this can often be where your consultants are connecting with candidates, although this is likely going to be mostly LinkedIn. A possible way of getting around this is simply monitoring your employee’s internet browsing – this is not something that should be done on a weekly or even monthly basis as it will become very time consuming and cumbersome, but perhaps something to be checked every couple of months or so, especially if you are noticing a drop in employee productivity. You can even bring your IT team in and place restrictions on certain websites across your employee’s PC’s if you are certain that these are not business critical to ensure that your employees aren’t able to surf the web for personal use when they should be working.


A lot of employees can often spend a lot time throughout the day dealing with personal situations, involving taking personal phone calls or checking their personal email. Whilst in certain adverse situations this may be necessary, it is important that you as the boss have been informed of this ahead of time so that you don’t automatically assume they are simply slacking. It’s also good manners of the employee to let you know that they may be somewhat distracted during the day. Ultimately, if one of your staff is taking time out of the working day to deal with a personal situation, you should know about it beforehand. This is not to say that they have to divulge all of the details of their personal life to you, but a simple heads up is important for employer/ employee communication and respect.

Ultimately, trust goes a long way when it comes to time theft. As an employer it would be ideal if you could fully trust all of your employees not to take advantage when it comes to things such as abusing the internet and taking extended breaks, but sadly this is often not realistic. As an employer, it’s important to set boundaries, policies and guidelines when it comes to the time your employees spend at work not actually working. If you allow your employees to take cigarette breaks or take some time out to solve a problem at home then that’s fine but make sure your employees know about it and don’t start taking liberties that end up costing you money.

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