Employees lose $15 billion globally in unclaimed expenses

Profile picture for user pwainewright By Phil Wainewright November 30, 2015
A survey finds employees are missing out on unclaimed expenses to the tune of $15 billion globally and $10 billion in the US alone, leading to disengagement

Unit4 expenses infographic final 700px
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Have you ever felt shortchanged by your employer when you missed an expense claim deadline or lost a receipt you needed to submit a claim? Turns out you're not alone.

The global workforce is $15 billion worse off because of its failure to claim expenses back from employers, according to new research carried out this summer. US workers are the biggest losers, sharing a $10 billion shortfall, an average of just under $400 for each individual who misses claims.

Many blame employers or believe their employers are profiting at their expense. As many as a third of respondents in some countries said that being left short of money led to negative feelings about their employer, contributing to disengagement.

The research, carried out for enterprise software vendor Unit4 by Amsterdam-based marker researcher Ruigrok ¦ NetPanel, surveyed close to 2,000 senior and middle management professionals in nine countries: the US, Canada, United Kingdom, Spain, France, Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Sweden.

Cumbersome claims procedures were blamed by a quarter of respondents. Others put the cause down to their own forgetfulness or lack of effort. Many said they had forgotten to ask for or had lost the receipts, thought it was too low value to be worth the effort of claiming, or simply forgot to submit the claim in time.

Negative feelings

Whatever the reason, many harbored negative feelings towards their bosses for being short on cash.

The sums are not insignificant. US employees give away the most to their employers, with 17 percent failing to claim an average of $390 (€347) every year — giving a total when extrapolated across the working population of more than $9.7bn (€8.7bn).

German workers were the most efficient at submitting claims, with just 12 percent missing out. But with an average of €292 unclaimed that still adds up to €1.3bn ($1.4bn) extra profits for German businesses. Other countries where employers were collectively profiting to the tune of a billion or more were the UK (€1.3bn) and Canada (€1bn).

Significant numbers said that they sometimes found themselves short of money, and when asked if they feel their employer is gaining a financial advantage over them through the expense claim process, 42 percent of US respondents said yes. Figures in other countries were Spain 29 percent, Sweden 26 percent, UK 25 percent, France 23 percent, Canada 21 percent and Belgium 20 percent. This led to negative feelings about their employer for 35 percent of French workers, 30 percent in the UK but only 14 percent in the US and Canada.

Unit4 have summarized the results of the survey in an infographic — see above.

My take

There's something about this survey that reminds me of the scene from the BBC's classic Yes Prime Minister TV series that demonstrates the use of leading questions to skew responses to an opinion poll (YouTube). The order of questions seems destined to come up with the finding that employees feel negatively about the money they're losing, which conveniently then makes Unit4's point about employee engagement and how important it is to have easy-to-use expense claim processes.

Yet all of us know how much resentment we harbor about those expenses we failed to claim, or which wasted so much of our time to claim because of cumbersome claim processes. So however the survey reached its findings, it certainly touches a nerve.

Image credits: Businessman waist view showing empty pockets © BillionPhotos.com - Fotolia.com; Infographic by @Unit4.

Disclosure: Unit4 is a diginomica premier partner.