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Employee sleeping in the office overnight

Employee sleeping in the office overnight

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We have an employee who joined us in summer 2008 and was offered a £8,000 relocation package. He has used the majority of this now and has spent it on renting a room in a house, travelling between here and his original location. He has a partner in the original location (100+ miles away) and has not yet put his house on the market as he has been told "it is not the right time".

Last week on Tuesday he dashed off for a 'handover' at lunchtime and we believe he gave back the keys to his room in the house.
On Wednesday I came into the office early at 7.30am and happened to notice his car was fully iced up and his car was full of items from the house such as a mattress etc. I voiced my concerns to the office manager (we are a small organisation so she deals with HR too, I am another senior manager), who then checked the building alarm and noted that it had not been set all night. We decided not to say anything, basically to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that it was a one-off before he took some stuff back to his main house. He was away the rest of the week on business so nothing further happened.
However, this Monday night the alarm has not been set again and we suspect he has slept here again. She has yet to check last night's alarm.

The employee concerned has financial difficulties as he has taken a lower paid job than he had before and his outgoings far exceed his income (i.e. he handed a bank statement in with his expenses and the mortgage payment alone is in excess of his take home pay from us). He had previously mentioned giving up the room in the house and staying in a travelodge by the office when he is not travelling round the country but we are concerned that he is sleeping here to save money.

The situation deepens when you realise that he is the he is the chief exec, so there is no-one more senior for myself and the office manager to go to without going directly to the non-exec board.
There is also an issue with him having submitted 'interesting' mileage claims (some for excess miles, some for non-existant parts of journeys) which I have the pleasure of going through with him this afternoon.
Plus the issue that he is conducting a detailed financial review of the organisation that we suspect will involve redundancies, the office manager in particular is very worried about her position. I am less worried about my position but the possibility is still there.

My tack is that we should give him the chance to get out of this, with the mileage I am going to say "I think you made a mistake our policy is x" and correct it. Then keep a really close eye on the rest of his claims.
I have told the Office manager to perhaps ask him who was in the office last on the two nights in question and say that they didn't set the alarm. That gives him a chance to own up, or a chance to at least realise we know what is going on. We will of course document our concerns and what is said or not. If it continues or happens again then we would inform the board.

Is the above the right approach to take? Myself and the office manager are not HR trained and are in a really tricky situation. The 'evidence' we have is circumstantial, and even if he says "yes I slept in the office what are you going to do about it?", where is it written that you can't? I know obviously most people wouldn't dream of it.

It is also extra tricky as he seems to be fairly sly and we don't realy trust him.

I know this is very long, any help would be most appreciated.

Thank you very much
Sarah

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By colettefl1
29th Jan 2009 11:44

Thank you for your comments Nik.

I went through his expense forms with him yesterday afternoon and told him what I thought they should be and why. He had reasons of sorts for why he thought he had done it right but he accepted changing them all to the correct way I outlined. He then asked a couple of questions about different scenarios and what he could claim. I told him the answer and said if he had any queries to come and ask me before submitting. He seemed ok with this.

I feel I've given him the benefit of the doubt, the expense forms are now correct so he has not actually been paid over what he is entitled to. I have kept a copy of the original forms submitted and the changes agreed to for future reference. Surely, bearing in mind he maintained he'd got confused on the rules, I have to give him the chance to make sure future claims are correct?

So, do you think sleeping in the office is ok? The alarm cannot be set with anyone in the building, so sleeping there and the alarm being on cannot both happen. I told the office manager yesterday that she has to say something to him soon and cannot leave it any longer. She is scared for her job thoughas she already thinks she is in the redundancy line as he doens't like part time staff but that is a different matter altogether.

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By Nkellingley
29th Jan 2009 17:29

The benefit of the doubt is what I would normally recommend - after all many people make mistakes on expenses forms.

But... you already have evidence that the guy is on shaky financial ground and his income does not match his outgoings - is it beyond the realms of possibility that this was attempted fraud? And if it's not don't you think that you need to inform the board just in case? They may take no action, after all it may be a genuine mistake, but I'm not sure they'd be pleased to be in the dark.

And sleeping in the office is symptomatic of the above too. I don't think there's any harm done in sleeping in a properly alarmed office - I don't think it's a good idea on a long-term basis (think of the smell...) but as a one-off, there's no real harm done. (Many, many years ago I once slept in my office in London as I'd missed the last train and didn't have the cash for a hotel.)

However in this case it rings another alarm bell regarding the manager's financial circumstances - and again if I was on the board I'd want to know, even if it was only to have a friendly chat to make sure things were OK...

But it's always going to be your call - only you have the evidence and only you can make the decision here.

In all honesty though - if the board find this out from someone else, they will not be happy with the staff who didn't come forward.

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By Nkellingley
29th Jan 2009 05:17

Unfortunately it's time to go to the non-exec board and blow the whistle.

This manager is committing fraud in false expense claims, and you have evidence that their personal financial practice is not sound - putting the company at risk of further episodes of fraud.

If you look the other way in this matter you could be regarded as complicit and thus in the literal firing line if the matter ever comes to the board's attention.

Sleeping in the office at night, you could argue is OK but disabling the alarm system is not - it puts your business at risk of a break in, and the individual at risk of an assault during such a break in, for which your company would be liable.

So I'd take a big deep breath - phone a member of the board you believe will at least listen to you or better still be sympathetic to your concerns and let them know. If they decide you should ignore this and let it continue - ask them to put that in writing - I'm not a fan of the CYA school of business, but in this case I don't think you have much of an option.

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