Dear Jenny

Jenny Nuttall has been a qualified employment solicitor for five years and advises employers and employees on all aspects of employment issues. She also writes the Dear Jenny employment column which covers both employee and employer problems. You can read queries relating to this month’s topic below and previous articles under the topics on the right.

You can pose a question to Jenny by emailing her at j.nuttall@livingstons.co.uk or by filling the contact form on the left below. Please write Dear Jenny as the subject.

Jenny Nuttall

Falsification of Timesheets

I am a local employer and it has come to my attention that one of my employees is not completing his time sheet accurately. We write down the time that we enter the premises for work and when we leave. I have noticed that the employee sometimes leaves a couple of minutes early, but puts the time down he is supposed to finish. Can I take any action over this?

Answer:

Thank you very much for your question. Falsification of timesheets is a very serious matter even if it is only a couple of minutes. What this employee is doing potentially amounts to dishonesty and theft, in that they appear to be acting deliberately to mislead you and accepting payment for time they have not worked. There are a couple of issues here. One being that he is leaving early, the other is that he is misrepresenting what time he leaves on his time sheets.

In relation to the leaving early, this is a potential disciplinary offence but, it may be difficult to discipline in the first instance, especially if there is a custom and practice of “knocking off” early amongst staff. However, if all the staff follow the rules and this employee is the only one who is leaving early, then it might be appropriate to take disciplinary action.

The matter of the falsification of timesheets is a more serious one and this could be classed as gross misconduct. Employers can often dismiss employees in the first instance where they have committed an act of gross misconduct. Whether this would be reasonable in this case will depend on the circumstances.

You should always ensure that you investigate any disciplinary issues properly and carry out a fair disciplinary procedure before you make any decision about whether or not to discipline or dismiss. Remember, sometimes employees have genuine explanations as to why they have acted in a particular way, which might mean that disciplining is not the best idea.

We often get questions about timekeeping. We advise that it is good practice to have a robust timekeeping and attendance policy in place which sets out what you expect from employees and the consequences if they do not stick to this! Your disciplinary policy should make it clear that theft and dishonesty are both classed as gross misconduct. Finally, and most importantly, you should ensure that everyone knows about the policies and follows them. You will have difficulty relying on them if, on a day to day basis, these are not followed or policed.

Please do get in touch and we can discuss this matter further.

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