As a professional firm, you should always be alert to possible employee theft, particularly in the run-up to the holiday season, where many employees are financially burdened, and it's not uncommon that honest individuals are tempted to commit theft from their employer.
Fidelity Insurance (theft by employees) can often be included under an Office Insurance package; alternatively, more extensive cover is available under a more specific Crime Insurance policy.
This is even more of a risk if your company has experienced trading difficulties or current market conditions are challenging, as employees can become fearful for their jobs.
As such, you must take preventive measures and institute extra safeguards to prevent employee fraud.
What Constitutes Employee Theft?
Theft comes in many shapes and sizes, depending on your business and employees. Typically, employees may embezzle money or take advantage of their access to sensitive customer information or data.
Theft Is Not Only Financial
In addition, employees may use company time to take care of personal obligations - this is known as "time theft".
They may use company time to look for a new job, if they are in fear of losing their current one, or may use work time to take care of personal business.
Furthermore, if employees are under tremendous amounts of pressure due to their uncertain job fate, they may be more inclined to take breaks to surf the Web as a way to reduce some of their stress.
Tips to Avoid Employee Fraud
To prevent theft at your organisation, consider the following safeguards:
- Communicate with your employees about any business challenges and how it will affect your organisation. Be open and honest, but discourage them from panicking.
- Educate your employees about what is considered fraud and the consequences associated with it, and emphasise that the company has a zero-tolerance policy.
- Conduct more internal audits.
- Increase company oversight by upper management and owners.
- Reconcile bank statements immediately.
- Consider using a payroll service to ensure accuracy.
- Purchase Fidelity Guarantee or Crime Insurance.
- Consider installing surveillance equipment. Be mindful that this may decrease employee morale if they feel that they are not trusted. You may also want to monitor computer activity more closely.
- Regarding financial tasks, give different employees different jobs, such as one person handling transaction authorisations, one person collecting or paying cash and one person maintaining records. Do not allow one employee to have too much control.
- Encourage employees to use their holiday time. If someone is stealing, it may become more evident once they are away for a few days. Banks and other financial institutions tend to insist that all employees have at least 1-2 consecutive weeks holiday each year to allow time for any problems to be uncovered.
- Establish a fraud or whistleblowing process for employees to report suspicious or fraudulent behaviour anonymously.
- Conduct thorough and detailed screening on all your new employees.
- Train any managers or supervisors to monitor employees and watch for suspicious behaviour. Any suspicious behaviour should be reported and further investigated.
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