Telling a ‘white lie’ at interview may not give employers cause to reconsider whether the individual is suitable for the job or not; merely saying that they are interested in travel or have read ‘War and Peace’ when they haven’t is unlikely to be a deal-breaker. However, the outcome of a lie may mean that the employer is acting illegally by employing the individual, or the lie that is told may be significant enough to destroy the trust and confidence required between employer and employee and can result in the employee’s dismissal.
Employers may discover that an individual has lied at their interview after they have offered them the job. In these circumstances, it is still possible to withdraw the offer although a notice period will need to be considered where the offer has already been accepted. Accepting a job offer is enough to create a contract of employment, even without signing any contractual documentation, so employers will have to give the correct notice period to terminate the existing contract. If no notice period has been agreed, the length of notice to be provided will be ‘reasonable’ or any outlined in the contract if this has already been provided.
Ensuring a full and proper paper trail is vital in these circumstances to evidence the reason for the withdrawal of the offer. This will avoid any allegations that the withdrawal was for a discriminatory or other unlawful reason. Keeping notes of interview questions, interview answers, CVs and application forms, and the offer letter is advisable.
Where the employee has already started their employment with the business and it is later discovered, or suspected, that they lied during their interview, this can constitute a breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence that is necessary for an employment relationship to exist. Proving that the employee has lied is not necessary for this term to be breached; a reasonable belief following a full and thorough investigation into the matter is sufficient. As this term breaches the contract of employment, employers can dismiss for the deceit at the interview stage after following full contractual procedures to avoid any breach of contract claims. The procedure to take will depend on the length of employment of the employee.
Employers who are finding themselves in these situations on more than one occasion may need to consider the questions they are asking during the interview to ensure they are receiving truthful answers. Asking questions which relate to a protected characteristic should be avoided. Later discovering the applicant lied and rejecting their application or dismissing the individual could lead to them forming the opinion that this decision related to a protected characteristic and then they could make a tribunal claim for discrimination.
Choosing the most effective questions to ask during the interview will help to ensure honest and truthful answers are being given. Some companies use tried and tested questions that they apply across the board whereas others bespoke their interviewing questions dependent on the role. Again, keeping a clear note of the questions asked and the answers supplied will help to set the employment relationship off in the best direction.