When it comes to spend management, the conversation is often steered toward the issue of employee overspend — and, in some cases, deliberate fraud — with heightened visibility and efficiency in expense management technologies often highlighted as key to addressing this problem.
But new analysis from Allstar Business Solutions says the reverse problem is also pervasive: employees left with financial losses because employer expense management solutions are too friction-rich.
The firm’s latest report, “Out Of Pocket Employees,” published this week, finds a quarter of employees said they went so far as to cancel some type of meeting that would require a business trip because they didn’t want to take on the financial burden of paying for expenses upfront, or the potential burden of never receiving that money back.
Allstar surveyed 2,001 employees across the U.K. and found a tenth paid their own expenses, even though their company had an expense policy. Two-thirds of survey respondents admitted they hadn’t read that expense policy, but more than a third said they simply forgot to file expenses.
“Forgetfulness was common,” Allstar wrote in its report, with more than one-third saying they have forgotten to claim back their expenses from their employee — whether that’s for fuel, travel or entertaining clients.”
About half of employees surveyed said they at least sometimes don’t reclaim expenses they’ve incurred through their company’s expense process — and nearly half of professionals over the age of 55 said they never pay for an expense then reclaim that spend at a later date. The most common reason why a professional would not claim their expenses was because they felt the amount they spent was “too little” to request back from their employer.
The second most common reason was that the employee “can’t be bothered with the admin” associated with the claim and expense reporting process, with a significant portion of survey respondents also noting that the expense process was too long-winded and unclear to go through.
Lost receipts and a lack of clarity related to what an employee could claim on an expense report were also common reasons why professionals failed to file an expense report, Allstar found.
The data suggested another implication of lackluster T&E solutions in the workplace.
Earlier research from webexpenses found not only was expense fraud a common way employers were spending too much on their workers, oftentimes, those professionals felt justified for it.
Eighty-four percent of U.K. employees said they never had an expense report that they filed challenged or denied, and nearly half admitted to increasing the number of miles they drove while on the clock in order to inflate expense reports.
The report also found a slew of expense filings for non-work-related items, such as a DSLR camera or other personal merchandise.
Forty-two percent of professionals said they were aware there were inadequate checks and balances at their company’s expense reporting process.
“The results bring to light the changing patterns of expense fraud, the shift to more subtle methods to efficiently enable claims to fall through the cracks and raise no red flags,” reflected webexpenses CEO Adam Reynolds in a statement last November. “The most prominent area being exaggerated [is] mileage claims; this could be down to employees feeling it’s completely innocent just rounding up mileage, and with a manual process, it’s a lot harder to identify.”
“This ultimately allows fraud to continue ticking on, and the longer employees get away with it, the more accepting it becomes and the less guilty they feel,” Reynolds added. “We hope these results are the push businesses need to explore and evaluate the effectiveness of their expense management system.”