As South Africans, we all know how hard it can be to find work. Almost a third of our working-age population is unemployed. In the second quarter of 2019, the number of jobless people rose by an additional 455 000, bringing the total to 6.65 million, the highest in almost 20 years.

It’s a desperate situation, and we all know what they say about desperate times calling for desperate measures. It’s not surprising then, given these figures, that South African employers see hundreds of CVs every year that have been “doctored” or “creatively compiled” to give the candidate a better shot at securing a job interview.

This is not a new practice, but consequences for individuals who were found out were never particularly severe. However, thanks to a brand-new amendment to the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Act, all that is about to change.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa recently signed into law the NQF Amendment Act of 2019. In terms of Section 32B of this amendment, it is now compulsory for all employers, educational institutions, organs of state and skills development providers to verify all qualifications through the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). If a potential employee is found to have lied on his or her CV about their qualifications, experience, skills – or anything else for that matter – they could face a significant fine, and/or a maximum of five years in prison!

And the new law doesn’t just apply to your CV – you have to come clean on your social media profiles too. Lying on LinkedIn or fibbing on Facebook could land you in just as much hot water as on an official job application.

The consequences of inflating your qualifications just got real.

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CV Fraud – What Actually Constitutes An Offence?

In legal terms, fraud is a misrepresentation of the truth in order to better your own situation. The law is very clear on this, and it takes no prisoners:

  • The damage or negative influence of the fraud doesn’t even need to be proven, it can also be potential.
  • Dishonesty is taken very seriously in labour law. If you lie, then you’re committing fraud. It doesn’t matter what the lie is, or how small or insignificant you may perceive it to be. A lie is fraud, and fraud is a criminal offence.

Fraud from a labour law perspective is a very “wide” offence. If you say you have more experience than you do, if you produce false certificates showing qualifications you don’t have, if you provide false references, or if you state you have skills and abilities that you don’t, in reality, possess, you are guilty of fraudulently misrepresenting yourself.

The only instance in which you may avoid prosecution is if you completed a qualification in good faith, believing it to be an accredited course, but it was actually a unregistered institution issuing “fake” degrees. In this case, evidence for a possible acquittal of the charges of contravening the NQF Act can be presented in your defence.

Employees – Here’s What You Need To Know

So many potential employees don’t understand the seriousness of lying on their CV until it’s too late. What might have started out as a desperate attempt by an otherwise honest person to better their chances of securing, at the very least, a job interview, could end up with them in serious legal trouble. And those employees who already have jobs, but who are later found out to have lied on their CVs, will be subject to a disciplinary hearing and more than likely dismissed.

All students, job seekers and graduates should always be completely honest and transparent about their qualifications. A moment of weakness or a bad decision could have repercussions that will adversely affect the rest of their lives.

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Employers – What Can You Do?

It is absolutely critical for companies – no matter how big or small – to have watertight internal policies and procedures in place. You need an ethics policy, an offences policy and a disciplinary code. If you then discover an employee has been dishonest on his or her application, you can effectively “try” them internally on the basis of these codes. In cases such as this, the HR Manager will give the employee due notice of the trial, and an objective third party is usually called in to conduct the trial so as to avoid any possible accusations of bias. If the employee is then found guilty, they can be summarily dismissed.

The easiest way to avoid that entire scenario in the first place is to check, double check and even triple check all potential employees’ qualifications and references. Unfortunately, the only way to do this with any degree of reliability is to phone. Call up the university, college or institute to confirm your applicant did indeed obtain a qualification there. Personally contact referees listed on the application. Remember, certificates and letters of recommendation can easily be faked.

What Is The Offenders’ Register?

In addition to calling out offenders, the new amendment also enables and authorises the national authority to create, and continuously update, a register for all those found guilty of misrepresenting their qualifications or submitting fraudulent qualifications. Guilty parties could end up with a permanent record on this register.

The new law clearly means business, and the time for thinking a little “CV fudging” won’t hurt anyone is now past. Yes, it’s tough out there. Jobs are few, and the people wanting them are many. But the new amendment means things just got a lot tougher for those of us tempted to be a little creative with the truth.

So, do the opposite of what Nike advises: Just Don’t Do It!

JGL Forensic Services is a multidisciplinary team of experienced forensic accounting and investigation professionals. We strongly believe in the rule of law and the scientific method as it applies to forensic accounting and investigation. Talk to us in confidence, and let’s work together to prevent corporate corruption and fraud.