Lying on a CV can have serious consequences – for both employees and employers, says Mark Stevens
It may be that a CV includes inaccurate details about a person’s job history or qualifications, or that gaps between jobs are disguised.
Regardless, dishonest claims can amount to fraud by false representation. The Fraud Act 2006 states that a person is guilty of fraud if they dishonestly make a false representation and intend, by making the representation, to make a gain for themselves or another, or to cause loss to another. Not only could this lead to a claim for damages from an employer, but the applicant could also be guilty of a criminal offence.
Options for employers who discover lies
If a prospective employer discovers that an applicant has lied on their CV before the individual’s employment begins, consideration should be given to revoking the employment offer. Where possible, offers should be made conditional on satisfactory references or evidence of qualifications.
Serious inaccuracies and lies on a CV and/or during an interview may result in a breach of the duty of trust and confidence that is implied in every employment contract.
Lying on a CV could amount to gross misconduct, entitling the employer to summarily bring the employment relationship to an end. Lying can therefore allow an employer the right to summarily dismiss the employee without notice or compensation.
Care should be taken that breaches are sufficiently serious to justify summary dismissal – genuine mistakes or minor inaccuracies on a CV or during an interview may not count. An employer could also pursue a misrepresentation claim to seek compensation for the loss suffered as a result of the inaccurate information.
An employer could argue that they were induced to enter into a contract of employment by an inaccurate statement by the employee. If it can be established that the misrepresentation was a material factor in inducing the offer of employment, then the employer may be entitled to compensation, which could include the cost of replacing the employee and any recruitment agency and training fees incurred.
Consequences and potential penalties for the employee
Anyone lying on their CV could be committing a criminal offence. Lying about skills or qualifications may also mean they will not be able to perform their duties to the required standard.
They may fail to complete their probation period or find they are subject to a performance management process that could involve formal warnings, capability meetings and, ultimately, dismissal.
The impact on references should also be considered. There is no legal obligation on an employer to provide a reference for a former employee, but if they do so, the reference must be true and accurate, meaning inaccuracies could be recorded on an employment reference.
R vs. Andrewes
While it is a rarity, the case of R versus Andrewes (2022), highlights the risks for those who lie. The court found that Mr Andrewes had falsely claimed to have relevant experience and qualifications that were essential to the CEO position he applied for.
Mr Andrewes was appointed in 2004. However, his employment terminated in 2015 when the truth about his qualifications and experience came to light. In 2017, he was convicted of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception and of two counts of fraud.
He was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and the Crown sought a confiscation order against him. The Supreme Court ordered that nearly £100,000 of his earnings should be confiscated.
Employers should make clear to applicants that they attach strong importance to the accuracy of the information provided in the applicant’s CV. They can also emphasise their right to summarily dismiss and or seek compensation if any information provided in a CV is misleading or inaccurate.
Applicants should understand what specific information is being relied upon when discussing contracts of employment. Going a step further, applicants may be asked to declare in writing that their application is true and accurate.
Employers should seek proof of the applicant’s qualifications and ask to see evidence relating to them.
It would be prudent to make offers of employment conditional on the employer receiving satisfactory references. Further questions may need to be asked of a recruitment agency, where necessary; it should not be assumed that background checks have been carried out thoroughly.
Employers should also review the way in which they run a recruitment process – for example, by putting an assessment in place for applicants.
Employers must think carefully about the information and data they will be collecting in relation to candidates an employees.
They should have good reasons for doing so and provide candidates and employees with the appropriate privacy notices. Information must be stored securely, in line with data protection laws.
Mark Stevens is a senior associate at VWV LLP