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When embellishing your CV may be illegal

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Job seekers wishing to present themselves in a good light by inflating their experience and qualifications may get the job today, but the deception could cost them their future career and even their freedom.   

That’s the warning following a ruling in the Supreme Court after an NHS manager claimed what were called ‘a staggering series of lies’ on his CV, which enabled him to hold a series of senior posts over a period of ten years. 

And with the fraud prevention community Cifas reporting that as many as one in 12 CVs contain fraudulent information, rising to as many as one in six of those aged 24 and under, the problem is high on the HR agenda.  

The fake claims made by Jon Andrewes, 63, included calling himself ‘Dr’, saying he had a PhD, and claiming he had earned degrees from three universities, when his highest qualification was a Higher Education Certificate in Social Work.  He had spent most of his career as a probation officer, customs officer or youth worker, but falsely described experience that equipped him to apply for senior posts.  This opened the door for him to become Chief Executive Officer of St Margaret's Hospice in Taunton, and later chairman of the Torbay Care Trust and of the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT).

The fraud was discovered by health service investigators looking into his history when Andrewes wished to retire early on health grounds. He admitted to deception and fraud and was jailed for two years in 2017.  He was later ordered to repay £97,737.24 of his earnings, under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. 

When the court calculated how much he should repay, they rejected his claim that he was entitled to keep the pay because he had worked hard and effectively, regardless of how he came to get the jobs.  Andrewes appealed against the order, which required him to pay back using his share in a house, a boat, premium bonds and to cash in a pension plan, but the Supreme Court upheld the ruling when they heard the appeal.  

Kayleigh Howarth, Employment Law Executive at Chattertons Solicitors explains “The court heard that Mr Andrewes had made ‘significant progress’ at the hospice and had ‘not actively done any damage’ during his time in the roles, but this did not help him in avoiding a prison sentence or the amount to be reimbursed.

“The potential damage to employers cannot be under-estimated. If someone lies their way into a position, where they do not have the professional or technical knowledge, or the necessary experience, an organisation is wide open to the negative impact of that knowledge gap.

“In some cases, it could even be life-threatening, such as those faking medical or airline pilot qualifications.  That’s why it’s essential to have clear procedures in place to check experience and qualifications, rather than relying on a CV, or indeed the social media profile created by an individual, such as on the LinkedIn platform.”

Kayleigh added:  “The research showing younger people are more likely to commit this sort of fraud is a real worry.  They may find themselves in a tough jobs market and think they need to give themselves a short-term advantage, but a false boost has the potential to damage their long-term career path. 

“There may be a sense of it being simply a ‘digital enhancement’, like applying a filter to an image before uploading to Instagram, but this is a very different ballgame with very serious consequences.” 

The appeal in the Andrewes case focused on the confiscation regime laid down by the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, and whether there should be a confiscation order to strip the fraudster of their earnings.  The Supreme Court ruling sets out how salary payments may be calculated and reclaimed in CV fraud cases, saying that where there has been full value for the earnings received it will normally be disproportionate to confiscate all the net earnings made. Instead, the calculation can be based on the percentage difference between the initial salary in the new job obtained by fraud and the salary of their prior job.  The calculation should also take account of the potential amount that is recoverable.  

The amount by which Andrewes had benefited was calculated at £643,000 but based on his available assets, the maximum recoverable was identified as being £97,737.24.

R v Andrewes (Respondent) [2022] UKSC 24 On appeal from [2020] EWCA Crim 1055

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If you are an employer, or employee who needs guidance on any of the above matters, we are here to help.  Please do not hesitate to contact our friendly Employment Law team on 01205 351114 or 01636 593505.

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