The FSB and the BBC1 programme Fake Britain conducted a joint survey of 1800 small businesses. The survey revealed that after the businesses checked candidate's references they discovered 17% were fraudulent. They found that fake references are used for all levels of jobs:
- 40% of fake references were for entry level jobs;
- 40% were for mid-level roles;
- 12% were for management jobs;
- 2% were for Director level roles.
The FSB also reported that 71% of small businesses are not aware of the existence of websites offering fraudulent references. The findings highlight just how important it is for employers to ensure that they follow up on all references and don't just assume that they are genuine. The sort of checks that employers should consider are asking to see certificates of relevant qualifications and following up with former employers to check dates of employment and positions held.
Ideally references should be requested and checked in advance of an employee commencing work with an organisation. Any offer made should be subject to satisfactory references. Provided matters are dealt with in this way then it would simply be a case of withdrawing the offer if a reference was found to be false or otherwise unsatisfactory. It is fairly common to see the situation though where an employee has already commenced employment before references are obtained or checks finalised. Alternatively, it may be that the issue with the reference only comes out some years down the line. In these circumstances it may be possible to terminate on the grounds of gross misconduct without notice. However, depending on the exact circumstances termination with notice may be more appropriate. Whether dismissal is appropriate though will depend on the exact circumstances of each case. It is obviously important, where the employee has qualifying service, that a full disciplinary process, compliant with the ACAS Code, is followed with the employee being given a full opportunity to respond.