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Lying on your CV could cost you

In 2017, a YouGov survey found that 10% of British people admitted to having lied on their CV, demonstrating that the issue is perhaps more commonplace than most employers expect.

In this article, Anna Bithrey, Taylor Walton, explores the legalities surrounding dishonest CVs, whilst addressing what employers can do to better spot potential embellishments and how they should act if they find out an employee has been untruthful about their experience.

What is the law?

An employee who has lied on their CV may have committed gross misconduct entitling the employer to terminate the employment without notice. Alternatively, if an employee does not have the required qualifications to perform a role, an employer may terminate them on the grounds of capability.

If an employee is found to have falsified their CV once already in employment, employers should take the appropriate steps to mitigate any risk to their business. This will mean commencing disciplinary proceedings against the employee which could result in dismissal, or a report being made to the police if appropriate.

There are potential criminal consequences from lying on a CV as it can be seen as obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception under the Theft Act 1968. In the worst cases, this can result in a custodial sentence being handed down by the Court or the confiscation of wages earned through fraudulent means under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Potential Consequences for Employers

Hiring an underqualified individual could carry substantial risks to an employer’s business from a legal, financial and reputational perspective.

For example, employees who are not qualified to perform their role may provide poor quality or defective work to customers or pose a health and safety risk to members of the public or other colleagues on-site for which the employer could then be liable.

Employers should be able to demonstrate they have carried out due diligence to ensure they are appointing a suitably skilled candidate to the role. Practical screening steps employers can include:

  • Conducting background checks such as DBS checks, credit checks and reviewing publicly available social media (subject always to data protection obligations)
  • Seeking references from previous employers or academic institutions. Job offers should be made subject to receiving satisfactory references.
  • Requesting evidence of qualifications such as original certificates.
  • Considering interviewing techniques including reviewing the CV to identify gaps, asking the candidate about their experience and using competency-based questions to test a candidate’s ability to perform the role.

Data protection considerations

Employers should consider their obligations under the Data Protection Act 2018 and UK GDPR before collecting any personal data regarding a candidate. The key considerations are:

  1. Is there a lawful basis for processing the data? This will usually be that the employer has a legitimate interest to collect personal data to decide whether to appoint someone to a role beneficial to their business. However, additional bases will be required where the personal data the employer is proposing to collect is sensitive personal data, such as about criminal convictions.
  2. Has the candidate been provided with a privacy notice explaining how their data will be processed? Employers should provide prospective employees with a privacy notice, outlining, among other matters, the data that the company intends to collect during the recruitment process, how this data will be used, how it will be stored and processed, and what decisions will be made using this data. The privacy notice should be provided before the data collection process is carried out to ensure that the employer’s obligations have been satisfied.


The consequences of an employee lying on their CV, both for an employer and employee, are potentially far-reaching. As such, employers should undertake a review of their recruitment processes to ensure they have an appropriate balance between taking all reasonable steps to verify the information provided by candidates on their suitability for a role and balance this against their data protection obligations.

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