False absenteeism is often associated with disengaged employees who have little or no say in their personal role or the development of the company. As such, it was a great surprise to a reputable Midlands based organisation, when a seemingly committed and influential company Director was caught falsely claiming sickness absence.
The company were understandably nervous about challenging the employee concerned and when their efforts to support the employee, were met with residence, they felt they had no choice but to seek professional legal advice. Evidence was required to show the director was using company time to fulfil his own interests, hobbies and activities.
Suspicions were initially raised, when it was spotted during a routine company car service, he had travelled over 20,000 miles during the five month period he had been off work sick.
Clearly a sensitive issue given the position of the employee, the legal advisors knew the benefits of gathering proactive evidence in order to progress matters as swiftly as possible, to a satisfactory conclusion.
Being in possession of evidence puts an employer in a very strong position. In collaboration with Expert Investigations a five day surveillance operation was commenced in order to evaluate the level of ‘sickness and disability’ the employee was claiming. The employee had previously declared he was unable to drive long distances, walk more than 50 yards, sit in one place for more than two or three minutes and could not bend or stretch.
During the surveillance period the subject was followed travelling the length and breadth of the country. Travelling over two hours for a cup of coffee and walk around town, before driving back again, was a regular occurrence. On another occasion he drove to Manchester, collected a friend and went to view cars at several local car dealerships. He was observed sitting in both the front and rear seats and opening the boot to check the depth. After returning his friend home, his drove the significant distance back home again.
On the final day of the surveillance the subject drove a distance of 90 minutes to a small town where he parked his vehicle and walked down an alleyway between some shops to where there was a sign indicating a gent’s barbershop. Data research showed at the rear of the alleyway was a female providing escort services for men. This and the barbershop were the only two premises in the area, yet the subject quite clearly had not had a haircut.
On reviewing the file of evidence, including video footage, the employer discovered a surprising twist. The friend the employee had visited in Manchester, was in fact another one of their employees, who was also off on long-term sick.
This case shows the real benefits of acting proactively when dealing with false absenteeism. Providing lawfully gathered evidence meant the Solicitor could advise his client to interview, suspend and dismiss both individuals, therefore dealing proactively with an issue that had been going on for months.