Employees caught lying about their qualifications or salaries on their CVs could be made to pay back their dishonestly-earned wages, following a landmark legal ruling.
Every HR professional will have encountered a job applicant who has stretched the truth on their CV. Perhaps they exaggerated their skillset, or told a white lie about a lengthy employment gap.
Then there is Jon Andrewes. In 2004, the former builder and probation officer landed the post of Chief Executive Officer of a hospice after claiming he had a PhD and an MBA. In reality, a Higher Education Certificate in Social Work was the highest qualification he actually held.
Now, following a major legal case over his wrongdoing, the Supreme Court has ruled that CV fraudsters like Andrewes can be subject to a confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act. So if you pad out your CV, you could in theory be prosecuted for fraud and have to pay back a chunk of your salary.
Judges concluded that Andrewes had landed his chief exec role “by making a number of false or dishonestly inflated and misleading statements about his educational qualifications and experience in his application for that role. He remained employed in that role until 2015. According to the Supreme Court, during this time Andrewes was also appointed to two paid roles as a director and then Chair of the Torbay NHS Care Trust and as Chair of the Royal Cornwall NHS Hospital Trust. Despite his lies, the court heard that Andrewes “did a good job as CEO and was regularly appraised as either strong or outstanding”. But suspicions grew about his true qualifications, and his ruse was eventually foiled. He was prosecuted and pleaded guilty to three counts, including obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception, contrary to the Theft Act 1968 and fraud by false representation under the Fraud Act 2006.
In 2017, Andrewes was exposed and convicted of fraud, jailed for two years and ordered to hand over all his remaining assets.
However, the confiscation order was overturned by the Court of Appeal two years ago when judges ruled he had given ‘full value’ for his salary in the jobs he did.
Now, half a decade after being rumbled, the Supreme Court has reimpose the financial penalty. As a result of the verdicts, Andrewes, who earned around £643,000 as a result of his CV fakery, must pay back £96,737.24.
The court wrote: “It was clear that he would not have been appointed had the truth about his education and job experience been known”.
What HR should know about the legal ruling
Alexandra Mizzi, Legal Director at Howard Kennedy, believes that the court’s decision opens the door for other employers to follow suit.
She said: “The Supreme Court has issued a stern reminder about the pitfalls of exaggerating your qualifications. An individual who dishonestly inflated his qualifications and experience in order to secure numerous roles, most notably as a CEO role at a hospice, has been prosecuted for fraud. Whilst prosecutions like this have previously been rare, with most employers opting for dismissal on the grounds of lying on a CV, this case could pave the way for employers taking greater action. The Supreme Court has issued a confiscation order, forcing the defendant to pay about £90,000 of the total £643,000 he earnt in the role, offsetting the pay that he would have received if he hadn’t lied about his qualifications.
“Some surveys suggest CV fraud has increased during the pandemic as people turned to online ‘diploma mills’ to boost their chances of a better job and then misrepresented the qualifications they had obtained. If this case is anything to go by you not only risk losing your job if found out, but also having to pay back some of your salary and the bigger the fib, the bigger the percentage the employer can claim.”
The bottom line of CV lies
Although the case of Jon Andrewes is an extreme one, research shows that he is not alone in embellishing his CV for career gain. A study from YouGov found that 10% of Brits admitted to having lied on their CV at some point in their careers.
The results show that, first and foremost, education and qualifications are the most likely parts of a CV to be embellished, with four in ten (40%) résumé embellishers having fibbed about this.
Other common CV lies included how long Brits had spent in a job (35%) and their level of experience (30%). People who worry about not sounding interesting enough in the “personal interests” section of their résumé should note that this too was a fairly common fabrication, with three in ten (29%) CV liars admitting to making up hobbies.
Career coach Matt Somers said: “Just don’t do it. Ever. Rather than wonder if you can get away with a small lie on this CV or that online application, just resolve never to lie. That way you’re never under pressure at an interview to remember what you lied about, interviews are stressful enough as it is!”
Unfortunately, making some false claims in the recruitment process may be a necessary evil for some.
HR Grapevine recently reported on the case of a UK worker who claimed he was rejected from more than 100 jobs before finally securing job interviews… after he began using a British-sounding name on his applications.
Thiago Carmo, a Brazilian man who lives in Scotland on a visa scheme, claimed he had unsuccessfully applied for more than 100 jobs, receiving nothing but automated rejection messages despite holding two degrees AND a Master’s. However, he reportedly received a wealth of interest from hiring firms once he started going by James Carr on his applications.
Carmo’s case highlights that the calls from the likes of Somers to ‘just don’t lie’ on your CV isn’t always practical – the current bog-standard hiring process means some jobseekers will instinctively feel the need to embellish or conceal parts of their CV in order to get noticed. But how can we change this?