NHS time fraud demonstrates timesheet ineffectiveness

There are many reasons for companies to consider buying or upgrading a time and attendance management system.

For example, to make the process of running payroll easier, or to be able to spot potentially troublesome absence patterns from one glance at a screen rather than having to flip through calendars or scroll through emails. A centralised attendance data system can help alleviate these issues by keeping everything in one place in a format which is easy to access, export, and create reports with.

Time Fraud

Many of our customers want to be able to trust their data again after employees are found taking advantage using methods such as buddy punching (getting someone else to sign them in or out).

An example of an organisation which suffers constantly from fraudulent time and attendance recording is the NHS.

The National Health Service is one of the many, many employers which still requires much of its staff to fill in and submit cumbersome paper timesheets every week or month in order to be paid for their correct amount of time worked.

The NHS is also highly dependent on temp agencies, which are also very likely to demand this sort of attendance method from their employees.

In 2018 there have been many examples of this trusting, old-fashioned approach going very wrong. The NHS is so desperately underfunded that people stealing wages they haven’t earnt seems particularly cruel, but it most certainly happens. According to the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, the total loss to payroll fraud is estimated to be over half a billion pounds each year. Source

Here are a few examples which were in the news this year:

  1. A fraud “ring” in Milton Keynes composed of a recruitment officer and several temporary nurses conspired to defraud the NHS out of over £73,000. They submitted hundreds of fake timesheets, many of which had completely made-up signatures, then passed a share of the paid-out money onto the recruitment agent. Source
  2. An auxiliary nurse named Harbans Dhaliwal submitted her monthly timesheets to her Nuneaton hospital. By the time that her timesheets were examined (nearly two years after she had started work), she had falsely claimed for over 230 shifts. Over that time, she had received £49,878 in total – enough to pay more than a year’s worth of wages for a nurse. Source
  3. An agency nurse named Amelia Bailey worked for the RVI in Newcastle for just 8 months, and in that time submitted false timesheets with forged signatures for a value of over £15,000. Source
  4. A Band 7 management-level nurse who had worked the NHS for 8 years admitted to submitting false timesheets 72 times in order to supplement her income, for a total of £10,402.92. She falsely claimed she had worked weekends and bank holidays, and even submitted travel expenses for a conference she never attended. Source

Just those “newsworthy” examples add up to around £150,000.

Imagine how many times up and down the country staff are recording their leaving time as half an hour later than it actually was, or saying that they took their required twenty-minute lunch break when actually it was half an hour or forty minutes. These things sound small and petty when compared to time fraud in the thousands, but they add up to numbers which are just as big in the end.

Human Error

Paper timesheets by their very design are vulnerable to more than just direct employee fraud. There are multiple opportunities throughout a typical timesheet process for human error to be introduced. For example, employees could forget to submit their timesheets on time. Managers should always double-check submitted timesheets, but as we can see from our examples above that doesn’t always happen.

As well as allowing fraud to slip through, skipping this step can also introduce problems such as managers not being aware of the shifts their staff have worked and so not classifying them correctly as overtime, or scheduling them for a shift which would break the resting rules in the European Working Time Directive.

Once the flimsy sheet of paper has passed the managers, it’s often off to the payroll department. Here, unfortunate staff members have to wade through piles of timesheets to find the correct one, and have to squint at bad handwriting and smudged or nonsensical entries to obtain the data that they need. Assuming they read everything correctly while struggling to hit their deadlines, they must also type the information into the computer without leaving a single typo.

As we said at the beginning, there are many reasons for companies to consider a computerised time and attendance system. This post has hopefully gone some way to convincing you that one of the main reasons should simply to be to remove as much human input from the process as possible.

We provide either radio-frequency smart-card or biometric readers for employees to clock in and out with. This data is then sent almost immediately to the central WinTA.NET system, where it can be utilised in a number of ways, such as reporting for HR absence management, or exporting for payroll.

Please get in touch with any questions; we’ll be delighted to help!