Employer Insights

If It Looks Like a Duck... The Unethical Recruitment Practice of Sleepers

Manda Milling Posted by Manda
min read
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I think Joanne Rowling, a.k.a. J.K. Rowling, a.k.a. Robert Galbraith is just terrific. I know I am not alone thinking this, but nonetheless, I think she's just great, not only as a novelist, but also her back story, her philanthropy and, of course, her castle in Scotland. As I am about 150 years old, it was my niece who sparked my interest by lending me the first of the Harry Potter series. Just what was all the fuss about, I thought. Of course, I was hooked and then just had to read about Harry and the gang as quickly as possible (at that stage, I was about four books behind). And, as a few parents out there can tell you, there aren't a lot of movies you can go and see as a family that you will all enjoy (with mercifully no animated characters). 

So, after saying goodbye to Hogwarts, I then graduated to her adult novel, A Casual Vacancy (bleak, to say the least) and then happily onto her Cormoran Strike series under her non de plume Robert Galbraith. Good on her for still churning out the books, I say, when, of course, she doesn't have to type or write another word, ever. But – and you knew there was one coming – I have to take issue with Ms Rowling's treatment of her wonderful character Robin, Cormoran Strike's sidekick. You see, Robin comes to work for Cormoran as his temp secretary, sent by his local recruitment agency. 

He's not convinced of her worth at first but soon realises she is invaluable (particularly as Robin has always had a dream of being a private detective), not only for her administrative ability, but also her uncanny intuition. He likes her so much that they both do a deal to cut out the agency, and Cormoran then starts employing Robin directly. This is what we call a 'sleeper', or, to put it not so nicely, 'thieving'.

It's great that the temp, Robin, was doing such an impressive job; that’s why you engage an agency, to be able to source this type of great talent fast. Cormoran could continue to run his 'business' without inconvenient interruptions. The temp (Robin) is the employee of the agency, who pays her (and her on costs) and then invoices Cormoran. What Cormoran should have done is informed the agency that Robin was so great he wanted to employ her directly, paid the fee and then moved on. 

By directly colluding with Robin the temp, the agency's terms of business have been breached, and, in effect, he has stolen from the agency. So why have I brought this up? Let's face it: it's only a small storyline in a novel. But, once again, we had the same situation in our office this week. 

A temp and a hiring manager colluded to stop completing and approving her timesheets, advising people2people that her assignment had been completed, while all the while the temp was being employed directly. What Ms Rowling didn't include in her novel was that recruitment agencies do undertake regular audit checks, and for Cormoran and Robin, the jig would have been up. Once a sleeper is discovered (and they are discovered), a call is then made, and a difficult conversation ensues, not only with the temp, but also with the hiring manager. 

This is what happened in our office this week, and once you start lying, it's very difficult to stop. The temp's version of events was different to that of the line manager, and it all descended into farce. As people2people's terms of business had been agreed upon and signed by the hiring manager, he did not have a legal position at all, and so the consultant offered to continue the timesheets (including those that had not been submitted for the previous week) or invoice a permanent placement fee, so that the line manager could employ the temp on a permanent basis. 

The continuation of timesheets was selected and, of course, this also results in the employer paying for the temp, twice. It's all so unnecessary, it's underhanded, it's unethical, and it's sneaky. It also means that we will not work with that company or that temp again. How could you? So, if it looks like stealing and it sounds like stealing...