WFH council workers caught 'moonlighting' with second jobs by government fraud squad

27 November 2023, 14:50

At least three councils so far, Wakefield, Enfield, and Kensington and Chelsea, claim to have caught staff members in the act.
At least three councils so far, Wakefield, Enfield, and Kensington and Chelsea, claim to have caught staff members in the act. Picture: Alamy
Jasmine Moody

By Jasmine Moody

Council employees with second jobs are now being investigated by a government fraud squad after staff were caught "moonlighting" whilst working from home.

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The National Fraud Initiative (NFI) is investigating the practice of "multiple contract working", otherwise known as "moonlighting", which sees an employee misleadingly having two or more jobs at the same time.

Working for two employers at the same time therefore becomes theft of time and fraud as people knowingly collect two full-time salaries but split their hours to only work half the time for each job.

The NFI, overseen by the Cabinet Office, is assessing the scale of the issue after multiple local authorities warned that the practice has been exacerbated by hybrid working, which sees staff only coming into the office on some days.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "The National Fraud Initiative matches and compares pieces of data provided by private and public sector organisations to identify fraud cases.

"Last year, its work delivered savings of £171 million for taxpayers.

"One of the types of fraud cases the National Fraud Initiative has identified includes multiple contracts working, where an individual misleadingly works in two roles at the same time, including at local councils."

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At least three councils so far, Wakefield, Enfield, and Kensington and Chelsea, claim to have caught staff members in the act.

Three Wakefield Council employees faced allegations of "moonlighting" in December 2021.

Wakefield Council is one of three to claim it caught staff members "moonlighting".
Wakefield Council is one of three to claim it caught staff members "moonlighting". Picture: Alamy

In addition, five workers from Enfield Council undertook undeclared secondary employment in 2022-23

Councils have warned that hybrid working during and after the Covid lockdowns has increased the risk, as the new flexibilities make a second income "very alluring".

Every council holds responsibility for setting its working regulations, with most requiring people to declare second jobs.

In each examined case, counter officials identified the activity to present to annual council meetings.

in 2023, the NFI launched a pilot scheme to establish the extent of the issue at London councils, with many cases identified at local authorities in the past.

Levels of working from home have remained high in both public and private sectors since the pandemic, with ministers concerned about its effect on the productivity of the Civil services.

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At Kensington and Chelsea Council, "moonlighting" was described as a “new and emerging fraud type” in an official report published in June 2023.

"The pandemic created this risk when it normalised working from home and hybrid working", the report added.

"While this increases flexibility, it also creates new types of risks when during a cost of living crisis, a second income becomes very alluring", it added.

It said there were "several instances" where council employees were "fraudulently working simultaneously (full-time) for other organisations".

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