What Do You Do About Time Theft?

Time theft by employees is big news at the moment.  Many employers are concerned about how much time their employees spend on things other than work, and what they can do about it.

“Time theft is arguably an even bigger issue for employers at this time than it has been before,” said Nadia Zaman, an employment lawyer with Rudner Law in Markham, Ontario.[i]  For those who have employees who work remotely or from home, it appears to be an even greater concern.

But what is “time theft”?  “Time theft is really when the person actually should be working and they’re not,” said Janet Candido, a Toronto-based HR consultant. [ii]

Many employers have started to install software that monitors the behaviours of remote workers and keep tabs on when they’re actively engaged or just goofing off.  However, this isn’t entirely a new thing.  10 years ago, in 2013, the City of Hamilton spent half a million in court after firing 29 road workers who were spending less than two hours a day on the job, after spending $18,000 surveilling them on video.  At the time, the case made headlines across the country. [iii]

Since then, news stories in recent years have revealed allegations of time theft being raised by a variety of employers, including an accounting firmrestaurants and municipal planning departments, and involving allegations ranging from employees billing for time they had not worked to people using their work time to conduct personal errands. [iv]  In another case from earlier this month, an employee in British Columbia was ordered to return $2500 to her employer for time theft. [v]  The Civil Resolution Tribunal’s decision, dated Jan. 11, read”

“Given that trust and honesty are essential to an employment relationship, particularly in a remote-work environment where direct supervision is absent, I find (the employee’s) misconduct led to an irreparable breakdown in her employment relationship with (her employer)….”

Like most things, however, there are two sides to the story.  Many people can be productive and accomplish a lot within work hours and be finished long before the workday ends.  This is particularly true of work-at-home employees.

However, it involves putting trust in employees.  “Trust and honesty are critical,” said Nadia Zaman, the employment lawyer. [vi]

Therein lies the problem for employers.  Once you send someone home to do work for you how do you know that you can trust them?  Would it surprise you to learn that there’s a test for that?  In fact, there are many tools that can help employers determine trustworthiness in both applicants and current employees.

One of the newest to hit the market is specifically designed for employees who will be engaged in remote work.  The Work From Home/Telecommuting Test II helps to identify trustworthy, hard working, dependable, autonomous employees who can multi-task and work remotely.

Other measures of integrity, honesty, dependability and reliability include:

  • The At Home Agent and At Home Agent with Sales tests can help employers screen for entry-level positions where the main focus of the job is customer service and is performed in a remote work environment.
  • The Applicant Review is an honesty test that measures dishonesty, theft, integrity and fraud and has Spanish and Canadian French versions available.
  • The Applicant Risk Profiler helps employers test for theft, drug use, compliance, absenteeism and aggressive behaviour.
  • The Employee Dependability Profile identifies applicants who will be dependable, reliable and stable employees who are reliable and can be trusted, those who think work is important and are committed to doing their best, and those who show initiative and are willing to do more than they are asked.
  • The Employee Reliability Inventory identifies applicants who will be dependable, reliable and safe employees and measure Turnover, Absenteeism, Work-Related Accidents, Theft, Disruptive Effects of Alcohol and Drug Use.
  • The Employee Screening Questionnaire generates a hiring report accurately predicting applicants’ probable job commitment (low-turnover), risk of engaging in counterproductive work behaviors, as well as propensity for positive work behaviors.
  • The Work Ethics & Dependability Test identifies people who will take responsibility for themselves and the quality of their work.
  • The Work Integrity Screening Test assesses how likely an individual will behave with integrity and professionalism in the workplace.
  • The Work Integrity Test measures across 22 scales, including the degree to which a person is productive and responsible at work.

There’s less need to install software that snoops on employees’ behaviour when you’ve taken steps to ensure that you’ve hired trustworthy, reliable people in the first place.  There are also a variety of other assessments that can be used to measure people’s ability to multi-task, manage their time and identify overall job ‘fit’ as well.

If you’re concerned about whether or not your applicants are dependable and will do as they’re asked, don’t start to monitor them after they’ve been hired, look for these qualities before they’re hired and reduce the chances of problems down the road.

David Towler is President of Creative Organizational Design, a firm offering nearly 40 years of expertise specializing in employee assessments and which has over 2000 different product titles available. Creative Organizational Design has 100s of assessment tools designed to help employers screen out other people’s rejects, assess skills, aptitude, attitude and ‘fit’ within an organization. For more information about the options available and help selecting the best tools for your needs please contact us.  Please send comments about this article to dtowler@creativeorgdesign.com.


[i] What is ‘time theft’ and why are some employers so worked up about it? – https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/time-theft-tensions-workplaces-employers-1.6718610

[ii] What is ‘time theft’ and why are some employers so worked up about it? – https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/time-theft-tensions-workplaces-employers-1.6718610

[iii] City told to rehire 15 workers fired in asphalt scandal – https://www.thespec.com/news/hamilton-region/2015/04/30/city-told-to-rehire-15-workers-fired-in-asphalt-scandal.html

[iv] What is ‘time theft’ and why are some employers so worked up about it? – https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/time-theft-tensions-workplaces-employers-1.6718610

[v] Woman ordered to repay employer after software shows ‘time theft’ – https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jan/12/canada-woman-time-theft-tracking-software

[vi] What is ‘time theft’ and why are some employers so worked up about it? – https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/time-theft-tensions-workplaces-employers-1.6718610

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