Application lies

February 11, 2007 8:39 am Published by

How many of your employees are fraudsters, not really what they seem and taking your money under false pretences? It’s more likely than you may think. A recent survey by a recruitment agency found that an astonishing third of workers admitted to lying on their CV or job application, usually about qualifications and exam grades. 5% of those who took part in the survey lied about attending University. More than 20% had given false references by asking a relative or friend to pretend to be a referee.

These rather chilling figures reveal that recruitment is even more of a lottery than employers thought. Relying on such lies employers may recruit someone who is unsuitable for the job and/or turn down someone else who would have been better for the job than the liar.

So how can you tell where the lies are? Always ask for sight of relevant qualification certificates and if really important to you send a scanned copy to the Institution that gave them to check they are genuine. Always take up references if you can get them, on ability as well as character. Get a reference in writing, but always also check up by telephone too – people are much less likely to lie in person than on paper. Two referees should be a minimum, including the last employer.

You could check up on your existing employees too, unless you really would rather not know. If they are doing a good job, there is little point in rocking the boat. But if you want to be Sherlock Holmes, get the applications out, ask for the certificates, ring the referees and brace yourself. And if they lied to you to get the job or the promotion? It does go right to the heart of the trust and confidence you should be able to have in them. Depending on the seriousness of the deception, you may be justified in dismissing them or offering them a different more suitable job instead. Always take specific legal advice and follow the right legal procedures.

Rather charmingly, the Old Servants’ Characters Act 1792 is still in force, which makes it a criminal offence if any person “shall falsely personate any master or mistress…and shall…give any…false character to any person offering him or herself to be hired as a servant”. The penalty for such a false reference is a fine. In addition, false information given with a view to obtaining the salary may be fraud and in serious cases the police should be involved. The most usual outcome though is that the employer is very cross and the employee loses their job. For employees, honesty really is a better policy than the living on the knife-edge of deceit.

Frances Barker is senior employment solicitor at Blocks Solicitors.
Contact her on tel. 01473 343911 or

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