What is working time fraud?

By entering into the employment contract, as an employee, you declare that you agree to all of the conditions set out in it. So you have to perform a certain amount for a salary. The weekly working hours and breaks that you have to adhere to are also regulated by the employment contract.

One speaks of working time fraud when the specified conditions are deliberately disregarded or exploited, whereby of course not every small disregard is directly punished as working time fraud. After a short private distraction in the home office or a one-time delay, you won't have to reckon with dire consequences straight away.

When does one speak of working time fraud?

In order to explain in more detail when one suspects working time fraud, two things have to be considered. First, the gravity of the offense; and, second, the reasons for the offense.

The difference between working time violation and working time fraud

Basically, any violation of the conditions stipulated in the employment contract is referred to as a working time violation. If you show up at work 30 minutes late because you overslept, this will be counted as a working time violation. As long as this is a one-time deal, you are unlikely to face any serious consequences.

However, if the agreed working hours are deliberately violated, one speaks of working time fraud. The focus is particularly on whether the employee lets the employer pay for a certain period of time, even though he does not work during this period. This can start with being late, as the employer must now assume that the employee is deliberately not taking the necessary measures to arrive on time.

What can you expect after working time fraud?

There are two possibilities should you be suspected of working time fraud.

1. Warning

This should be seen as a kind of warning shot. A warning is issued by the employer depending on the severity of the offense or if he believes that the offense occurred in ignorance. Arriving late or failing to submit a certificate can, for example, be punished with a warning.

2. Termination

A behavior-related dismissal is to be expected in more severe cases of working time fraud. This would be the case, for example, if an employee were demonstrably trying to falsify the performance of a certain work performance. A termination is also to be expected if an employee maintains his behavior contrary to the employment contract after receiving a warning. In the event that the employer cannot fully prove the fraud, he can issue a termination on suspicion.

Examples for working time fraud

As is easy to see, not every misconduct in the workplace is immediately counted as working time fraud. Nevertheless, you should be aware of your behavior at work at all times and exercise caution, because working time fraud is more common than is often assumed. This is related to the right to issue instructions that your employer has based on the employment contract. You will be assigned tasks which, according to the contract, fall within your area of responsibility.

In very broad terms, it could be understood as a kind of guideline that everything you do without instructions from your boss or that is not part of the scope of your employment contract can be regarded as working time fraud if a salary is drawn for it.

Working time fraud is largely everything that keeps you from doing your job. As I said; not every little thing is punished, unless the action is concealed with the intention of collecting money even though there is no work.

You should exercise particular caution with the following points, as this can constitute working time fraud:

Recreational activities

From the employer's point of view, everyone who is not working has free time. Therefore, you should refrain from all activities that clearly belong to your leisure area. Examples of this would be surfing the Internet privately, sending messages, calling your family or reading the newspaper. All of these are actions that can be regarded as working time fraud, since you are not working during this time.

Constantly being late

A one-off delay will not result in you being terminated immediately. However, if incidents occur regularly, you could expect severe consequences. The problem is that a quarter of an hour late can easily be excused. However, if you are regularly late for several weeks, you will quickly find yourself missing several hours. Working time that is still paid. With such an accumulation of delays, the employer must assume that you are deliberately not taking any action in order to be there on time and to buy time.

Too long breaks

The break is of course there for all private activities as well as for relaxation. However, it is also important here to adhere to the break times agreed in the employment contract. The employee is responsible for ensuring that he is back at work at the end of the break. Overtaking the break can of course be regarded as working time fraud, since paid working time is also lost here. Especially if this happens regularly, you will most likely have to expect a warning.

Smoking breaks also fall into this category if they are not approved. Smoking costs time, especially if you first have to move into the designated rooms or areas. It is therefore at the employer's discretion to require that you make up for the lost time or use the official breaks for smoking.

The manipulation of time recording systems

These incidents are particularly serious because it is quite obvious that there is a deliberate falsification of the work performed. Time recording systems are used in so-called “buddy punching”. However, this requires two people. One who is not at work and one who stamps for those who are absent to suggest that they are there after all. Not only the absent can be prosecuted for working time fraud, but you are also guilty of complicity.

Buying time in overtime

Overtime is actually something that both employers and employees should avoid. But it also happens that employees consciously work overtime without actually working. This not only makes a good impression on the boss, but also has the advantage that the time has to be compensated or rewarded later. Over a longer period of time, a few hours can be accumulated for which the employee is remunerated, although he does not perform any work during this time.

Evidence of working time fraud

It can be difficult to prove the fraud in order to give notice of termination. Of course, in such cases the employee tries to talk his way out of it as best as possible.

Often, the only evidence that is actually sufficient for a dismissal is that the employee has been caught fraudulent in working hours. If the employee is caught in the act, it will be difficult for him to talk his way out.

Sometimes, however, even that is not enough for a termination without notice.

Working time fraud works both ways

So far we have mainly dealt with the issue of working time fraud on the part of the employee. Unfortunately, the fact is that some employers are not innocent in this regard either. This is the case, for example, if your employer does not remunerate you for all of your working hours. Not remunerated also means that no compensation has been paid for any overtime. Often the number and type of overtime remuneration are stipulated in the employment contract, which of course the employer must also adhere to. If you have the feeling that the hours you worked were inadequately paid or not paid at all, you should consult the works council.

What to do if you are suspected of working time fraud:

If you have appeared on your boss' radar because of suspected working time fraud, your everyday work at work can turn out to be difficult. The question now arises, what is the best way to behave now when confronted with it openly?

In order to clarify this, it is first necessary to consider to what extent the allegation is justified. If, in fact, consciously or unconsciously, you got paid for work that you didn't really work, then you should apologize immediately. If possible, briefly explain the situation, but make sure it doesn't sound like an excuse. Admit to your wrongdoing and make sure that your employer does not have to worry again.

However, if the suspicion appears to you to be completely unfounded, you should immediately seek direct discussion with your boss here as well. Explain their perspective and listen to the other. Often misunderstandings can be easily eliminated in this way.

If it turns out in the course of this conversation that you have in fact unintentionally committed working hours fraud, you should apologize again and of course make sure that this does not happen again in the future.

However, if your boss continues to insist on an unjustified accusation, you should start recording in as much detail as possible when and for how long you work. In the event that there is even a case of working time fraud on the part of the employer, such labels can be helpful in the event of a lawsuit to prove that you have not made a mistake.