Since the advent of working from home and hybrid working following the pandemic there has been a huge rise in second and even multiple job fraud – where employees sign up for one full-time role but then take a second or even a third full-time job, but fail to mention this to their new employer. They perform inadequately in all three jobs, but because of the current employee-led job market and a slightly less resilient workforce, employees are getting away with it for months, often passing their probation and then being entitled to a longer notice period should the employer dispense with their services.
With many roles being home based for at least part of the week, there is much less ability to monitor employees. When they do not appear as productive as others, allowances may be made under the heading of ‘bedding in’ and finding their feet with a new company.
Employers are so concerned that new employees will get a better offer and leave, that they are tending to be more lenient and ask fewer questions. However, the reality in some cases is that a failure to be productive or to properly engage with their new employer is because the employee is also working for someone else.
The combination of managers not wanting to doubt their own judgement on recruitment or pushing their new recruits too hard for fear of them raising wellbeing concerns or losing them altogether means it often takes a few months for an employer to realise that something is not quite right and take action – during which time the employee has been earning at least two salaries or, in some cases, three full-time salaries, all over £100,000.
In addition, some employees are using their lack of visibility in an office environment to set up their own businesses; this can be anything from jewellery making or beauty services, or offering the very same services that the employer offers, but through their own company or freelancing.
In one of the most audacious examples, the employee told potential clients that he was lucky that one of his clients offered him space in their building to work from – in fact, it was his employer’s offices where he had his own office and was already paid £150k a year.
There may also be those who choose to drive taxis or make deliveries at night to earn extra cash – which might not directly impact on their day job but can leave them tired and lacking concentration during the day. Whether they work at a desk or drive a forklift truck, this can have serious implications.
There could be some simple changes that could be made to tackle this rising issue – both from a fraud and a health and safety perspective. For example, there needs to be some simple mechanism through the tax system where employers can easily see if employees are paying taxes elsewhere and can ask their employees questions about it. While a new mechanism might not help those employers where their employees are fraudulently offering their services through their own limited company, or as freelancers if they are not declaring their income, it would be a simple start and just use existing government data.
Employers also need to have very clear policies on whether they permit second jobs – and in what circumstances. They need carefully written employment contracts dealing with the information that the employees have to provide if they are permitted to have them and what will happen if they take a second or third job without permission. These two simple steps could help achieve an immediate fall in job fraud and ensure employers get the amount and standard of work they have paid for.
Beverley Sunderland is managing director of Crossland Employment Solicitors