By Daniel Hunter

A quarter of employees reckon it is okay to fiddle work expenses — because they are underpaid and undervalued a study has revealed.

Research carried out among 2,000 workers found a staggering 15.6 per cent regularly claim for things which aren’t strictly 100 per cent work related. 15 per cent think it’s OK because ‘everyone does it’ and 12 per cent believe ‘it’s human nature to try and get a bit more’.

The study also found nearly one in ten believe it’s OK if ‘you know you can get away with it’.

Sanjay Parekh, Managing Director for webexpenses, which carried out the study, said: “Whilst it is obvious a troubled economy has led to tough times businesses need to stop expense fraud being seen as a way of reconciling pay differentials, and instill a culture of honesty in their organisations. By ensuring there are fair policy’s and reliable systems in place that will show up those trying to beat the system, and by looking at how issues and ethics are communicated within their organisation.”

“Recession prompted pay freezes, longer working hours and a difficult job market mean it’s employees not just businesses feeling the pinch. Add to this years of MP expense scandals and corruption in the banking sector and it’s of little surprise that expense fiddling is seemingly becoming an acceptable crime - ‘everybody’s at it and we’re just taking what we deserve’.

The survey found men were 6% more likely to fiddle their expenses with over 18% admitting to having exaggerated an expense claim compared to just under 13% for women.

Worryingly 82% of workers who admit to having exaggerated expense claims have never been been caught, and 95% of 35-44 year olds have not been caught to date in their career.

Two in three of those that were caught said the only repercussion was ‘just a ticking off’ or a ‘very cross boss’. Just a third were sacked.

Almost a third (29.35 percent) of workers who have fiddled their expenses admitted they did not feel guilty and felt they deserved the extra money. 13% felt very guilty and 57% felt a little bit guilty, but admitted they had still fiddled their expenses.

Men were found to be less likely to feel guilty, with 37% feeling they deserved the extra income, compared to 25% of women. Those in the South West were found to feel the most guilty, with 82% stating they felt a little or very guilty about fiddling their expenses, compared to those in Wales where 45% felt they deserved the extra income.

Workers aged over 55 were found to be the group that felt the least guilty about fiddling their expenses with almost 40% (39.13 percent) stating didn’t feel guilty and felt they deserved it.

Salespeople topped the poll as the colleagues most likely to fiddle their expenses in their own company, chosen by 25% of respondents; CEOs/Managing Directors followed with 19%, line managers with 16%, finance people got 10% of the vote.

Respondents that had fiddled expenses in the past had over-claimed on mileage/petrol (40.60 percent), followed by food and drink (38 percent), public transport (24 percent) and carparking (16 percent).

The average expense over claim was found to be £29.40, rising from £18.21 in Wales to £43.24 in the South West. With the average number of expense claims found to be 15.35 claims each year. Based on this average and the average claim of £29.40 the research found the average worker that has fiddled their expenses is over-claiming by an average of £451.29 per year.

Over 80% of those that admit to exaggerating expense claims would not inflate a single claim by more than £50; 24% would draw the line at more than £10, 30% at more than £20, 28% at more than £50, 13% would draw the line at more than £100, 2% at more than £500 and just 1% at more than £1000.

Despite justifying expenses fiddling 66% of respondents thought MP expense fiddling was a crime and should be punished by law, however 79% of workers said the scandal and the associated raised profile of expense fiddling did not affect their behaviour at all.

Young workers, 18-24 year olds were most likely (20 percent) to think ‘if they can get away with it, why not, in response to the MPs expense scandal, but were more likely to be affected by the headlines with over 7% putting in more false claims, and 22% frightened into entering their expenses more carefully.

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