“The profile of a typical fraudster is a long-serving, trusted employee, who works long hours and is reluctant to take their annual leave,” says Jonathan Middup, Partner at Ernst & Young’s Fraud Investigation & Dispute Services practice.
In other words, some of those tough-as-nails, non-stop workers who never take vacations are more likely to be fraudsters disguised as dedicated employees. To go along with Middup’s comment, Ernst & Young has reported that their fraud investigation caseloads reach their highest levels during the summer. That’s why more companies now monitor vacation habits among employees as part of their fraud awareness strategy.
This is not to say that you must grow suspicious of employees who never take time off. But it can be a sign of something sinister, especially when there are other incriminating factors involved.
Underestimating the Dark Side Of No Downtime
Both health experts and HR managers now readily accept the negative consequences of not unplugging from work, especially how this can affect one’s mental health.
Management in companies of various sizes overlooks the avoidance of vacation time as a potential warning sign for fraud. True, some employees are unable to take vacations due to financial limitations, personal illness or perhaps just a fear of travelling but these are not the only reasons for avoiding vacation.
For those avoiding vacation for fraudulent reasons, it is a high-risk, high-pressure job! And the consequences of being discovered can be severe, meaning that a fraudster needs to have a sense of complete control over their operations. The thought of taking off for a few days scares them because they feel that someone may discover their dirty work, even if by accident.
Many companies are oblivious to their employees’ behaviours and patterns. They know everything about their performance but don’t keep track of things like their habits, goals and activities (such as taking vacations).
As a result, vacation time doesn’t get taken into account, and a fraudulent employee can keep on skipping vacations to commit illegal acts under the guise that they’re dedicated and hardworking.
Tricks to Detect a Potential Fraudster
It’s important not to assume an employee who doesn’t take a vacation is a likely candidate for fraud. But if you feel that there is room to investigate, you should look more closely at the employee’s behavioural patterns and the functions of their job.
This is even more crucial in a sizeable organization where it’s very easy to miss the employees who are skipping their vacation time, and you’ll need a strategy to identify who they are. There are two ways to do this:
- Keep employee vacation records – For a larger organization, it’s vital to establish a means of keeping track of how employees are using their vacation time. You can do this manually but a far more convenient and modern technique is to keep records of this and manage them by using data analysis tools. For example, the GLAnalytics solution tracks, among many other things, whether an employee is taking vacation or not. Proactively reviewing this data will clue you in as to whether you should approach an employee or monitor them more closely.
- Adopt a mandatory vacation policy – Although organizational policy changes are easier said than done, it may be time to start a mandatory vacation policy. There are many benefits to doing this. First, making employees take their vacations will allow them to “recharge their batteries”, keeping them healthy and more productive in the long run. Second, it gives you a chance to observe patterns in terms of work processes in their absence. These observations could point out unusual trends in their work or even illicit behaviour on their part.
Don’t Confuse Workaholism With Crime
Ideally, workaholism should never be encouraged within an organization as it leads to poor physical and mental health in employees. Of course, there are some individuals who are very passionate about their jobs, and their choice to work and not take vacation should be respected.
But it’s critical to look deeper into the behaviour of an employee who refuses to take vacation time as a step toward fraud awareness. The unwillingness to unplug may suggest an activity they’re covering up, or even some personal struggles affecting their job performance.
Regardless of the cause, consider the use of a data analysis tool such as the GLAnalytics solution and mandatory vacation policies. Even if no illicit activities are taking place, you will at least do your employees the favour of looking out for their health and wellbeing.