Leadership & Productivity

On the first day of Christmas...my employees claimed from me

5 min read

21 December 2017

Whether it’s a Christmas do, a box of chocolates or a bottle of wine, most businesses will provide their employees with some kind of perk at Christmas.

A Christmas perk is a simple way to thank staff for their efforts during the year, while boosting morale and helping to build bonds. It’s particularly important for a growing business, with smaller teams requiring everyone to be pushing in the same direction.

But what happens if some employees believe they deserve a little more reward than the Christmas perk they’ve been given? A recent survey into expense fraud, commissioned by webexpenses, found that 51 per cent of UK respondents viewed expenses as a kind of “treat”.

Employees commonly justified falsifying and exaggerating their expense claims as a way to reward themselves for areas they thought their salary failed to cover – such as working long hours or the inconvenience of business travel.

So during this festive period, could it be that employees will be trying to sneak some of these “gifts” through their business expenses? It’s a time of year when finance teams needs to be extra vigilant to prevent those fraudulent costs from creeping through.

To get a feel for the types of things employees will happily try to get away with, here’s a look at 12 of the boldest falsified claims workers confessed to in webexpenses’ 2017 global study into expense fraud:

On the first day of Christmas my employees claimed for me:
£22.44 manicure

On the second day of Christmas
£45 video game

On the third day of Christmas
£519 iPad

On the fourth day of Christmas
£350 Digital SLR Camera

On the fifth day of Christmas
£97.30 for two tickets to a sporting event

On the sixth day of Christmas
£119.88 for two concert tickets

On the seventh day of Christmas
£521.49 laptop

On the eighth day of Christmas
£1,320 Annual travel ticket

On the ninth day of Christmas
A £372.83 hotel stay in San Francisco

On the tenth day of Christmas
£149.13 dinner for friends

On the eleventh day of Christmas
£319.99 gas cooker

On the twelfth day of Christmas
£9.99 condoms

What fuels these kind of brazen claims within a company is a lack of effective expense management or monitoring. The research found that 84 per cent of the respondents had never had an expense challenged or declined.

The research also highlighted how employees are finding smarter ways to hide these kinds of expenses by merging them with legitimate business costs. A common technique was for employees to “boost” a valid reimbursement by adding personal costs, such as a hotel meal with friends or accommodation for a partner.

These kinds of problems are a legacy of outdated expense management systems which rely on manual processes, spreadsheets and paperwork and have proved incapable of properly controlling employee costs.

The research found that 62 per cent of respondents were at companies which are still using these traditional methods to manage reimbursements. It’s the reason that more growing businesses are moving over to digital systems which transform the way employee expenses can be monitored and controlled.

The use of cloud-based technology allows costs to be managed in real-time with automated processes replacing awkward and error prone manual tasks. A system such as webexpenses will typically reduce processing times by 25 per cent and cut expense costs by 10 percent.

Another major advantage for a growing business is that digital system is completely scalable and able to grow alongside a company. It’s able to handle everything from the simple set-up of a startup to the complexities of a multinational corporation.

So businesses now have the tools required to protect themselves against employees who may see fraudulent expenses as a way to reward themselves this Christmas. While it’s a costly practice that may have been difficult to tackle in the past, it has no place in a modern business set-up.

Webexpenses provides a better way to control employee expenses. Find out how it can help your business to grow by requesting a free demo.

This article is part of a wider campaign called the Scale-up Hub, a section of Real Business that provides essential advice and inspiration on taking your business to the next level. It’s produced in association with webexpenses and webonboarding, a fast-growing global organisation that provides cloud-based software services that automate expenses management and streamline the employee onboarding process.