Falsification of Employment Records
The revelation that more than 1.45 million roadside breath tests recorded across Ireland by members of An Garda Síochána never took place at all has sent shockwaves through the country.
The ensuing controversy has shone the spotlight now, not just on the Gardaí, but on firms across all sectors in Ireland to ensure forensic vigilance around accurate and secure record keeping, to protect companies and their employees.
News that breathalyser figures were being falsified over a seven-year period has resulted in an internal investigation and the report will now be considered by the Government and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan who has said that he will take “all the appropriate action” in light of what has been discovered.
Serious — No Matter what the Scale
While in the case of the Gardaí the numbers are staggering – in total almost 3.5 million tests were recorded as having taken place, but just over 2 million were actually carried out – the matter of falsifying records is just as serious, no matter what the size and scale of the company or incident.
Deliberate falsification of official documents is a common problem employers, from large companies to small to medium industries, around Ireland find themselves facing. Whether the situation is caused by human error, workload pressure or it is intentional, it is key to have company policies and procedures in place for monitoring at all times.
So what should you do as an employer to limit your exposure and what should you do if your employees falsify records? Here are 5 points to consider:
- Future-Proof — Be Clear from the Start
So what is a deliberate falsification of official documents? This can involve changing, modifying or altering any document for the purposes of deceiving the company. From changing sales records to altering clock cards that record hours of work, to financial documents, it is important to remember that this behaviour is unethical — and in some cases illegal.
It is really important as an employer that you get ahead and are clear from the start and incorporate your policies and procedures clearly in your employee handbook. This handbook should clearly outline your company’s disciplinary procedure and falsification of records should be listed as a gross misconduct offence, to ensure that your employees are aware of the potential ramifications of falsifying documents.
It is best to consult with the experts when composing the detail around this. As an additional insurance, it is advisable to reinforce this message throughout your company at least once a year, to keep it front of mind for your teams.
- Follow Procedure and Investigate
If falsification of records is at the very serious end of the scale, it may amount to summary termination for gross misconduct. This is why it is crucial that employers carefully follow company disciplinary procedure in line with the principles of natural justice, prior to dismissing an employee for falsifying records.
It is essential that a thorough investigation is initiated by the employees’ line manager or another manager if an issue crops up. The first step will be a fact-finding process. No decisions should be reached. Again, expert help should be sought as if the investigating officer, for example, asks closed or leading questions that could be deemed to be accusatory, then the process could end up being considered flawed. The role of the investigating officer at this point is to remain completely impartial and complete a fact-gathering mission.
- Detail and Documentation
In the interests of fairness, it’s essential that all supporting documentation be provided to the employee in question well in advance of the meeting. They should be given the opportunity to respond to the allegations in question. If the employee is considered a risk to the organisation, then paid suspension may need to be considered. If they are placed on paid suspension then a letter notifying them of the reason for suspension should be issued. If the investigating officer has met with witnesses as part of the process, then the testimony of these witnesses should be provided to the employee in question.
- Disciplinary Codes of Practice
If it’s deemed that there is a case to answer, then a written invitation to a disciplinary hearing should be issued. The invitation letter should include details of the meeting clearly. The allegations should be laid out in addition to all the necessary supporting documentation and the company’s disciplinary procedure.
The right to representation should be outlined – S.I. No. 146/2000 of the Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures outlines the right to representation by either a fellow employee or a trade union representative. The disciplinary officer should meet with the employee, listen to what they have to say and ask probing questions.
At the end of the hearing, the disciplinary officer should advise the employee they will take into consideration all supporting evidence and provide a timeframe for when they will be back with an outcome.
- Appeal and Due Process
The right of appeal must be afforded to any employee involved in any disciplinary proceedings in order to ensure due process. The appeal should be heard from an independent individual who has not had any involvement in the disciplinary process.
If you have any questions in relation to falsification of records or disciplinary procedures, call the Graphite advice line on 01 886 0350