How to Prevent Employee Abuse

Is your employee benefit plan ripe for mistreatment?

Have you ever answered yes to a child's question, "Can I have some crackers?" expecting them to take a reasonable amount only to have them walk away with the entire package?

This is an early example of giving someone an inch and they take a mile. Unfortunately, this behavior carries on into adulthood and the business world. Are your employees taking a mile on your dime, via company perks?

A farm owner allows his employees to expense their lunches each day out of the goodness of his heart. No rules, no stipulations, just feeding hungry farming bellies. Over time, employees began to stretch his kindness by adding snacks and sodas to their "lunch" for later in the day. Two employees overspending by just five dollars each a few times a week doesn't seem like much but over the course of a year it cost that farmer $1500 on top of his already generous gift of lunches.

Were these employees intentionally taking advantage of this man or were they simply naive as they had never been given any guidelines by which to order lunch?

While this is a unique situation, many employee perks are just waiting to be taken advantage of: travel allowances, expense reports, paid time off, farm fuel...the list goes on.

First steps

The first step in preventing abuse in any benefit plan is to have clearly defined guidelines. For example, are employees allowed to make personal purchases on their company credit card if they intend to reimburse for it? Has the company's stance on personal purchases been clearly defined and communicated to the employees? To avoid singling anyone out and prevent the issue from reappearing, the guidelines have to be fair and made clear to all employees, not just the offenders.  

In addressing your company's benefits and perks, it is wise to determine potential problems and address any gray areas in the current policies. Draw a line in the sand regarding what is acceptable and what is not as well as any items that may be at a manager's discretion or require pre-approval. Include all applicable employees in your plan to prevent waste and make clear the potential consequences for abuse and misuse of these policies.

This may seem like a daunting task that will lead to an uncomfortable work-place atmosphere, but imagine the relief and peace you will feel as the business owner or manager that has just closed some costly loopholes.

Don't let your generosity be taken advantage of - make your policies clear and fair, monitor their use and your employees will learn to stay within the lines.

The views expressed by Lori Cullers are not necessarily those of the Penton Farm Progress Group.

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