Employers warned to watch out for bogus job applicants

Employers have been urged to tighten up their recruitment procedures to avoid legal claims from the growing number of ‘serial saboteur’ job applicants.

Under the scam, one person makes multiple applications for an advertised position under different identities, in an attempt to prove that an employer discriminates against applicants of a particular race, gender or disability. They then attempt to claim financial compensation for the discrimination.

According to Guy Guinan, employment partner at law firm Halliwells, most firms that become embroiled in this trap will agree a financial settlement with the individual before the situation escalates to employment tribunal level, allowing the individual to remain anonymous and therefore able to strike again.

“This is a growing problem, with the number of payouts increasing,” he told Personnel Today. “Employers should be aware of this threat and ensure that their recruitment practices and procedures are watertight to help them avoid falling foul of this practice.”

All industry sectors have been targeted, but it is generally larger employers such as financial services firms that are most at risk, said Guinan.
“The reality is that the larger companies won’t look at thousands of applications for a job, which means they are more at risk, especially if they don’t keep a record of what they have looked through,” he said.

“I know that some organisations simply shred all the applications they do not go through, which leaves them wide open to potential claims.”

And next year’s introduction of age discrimination legislation will provide the scammers with another weapon to test employers, Guinan warned.

“If companies request a date of birth or an age on an application form, they risk receiving multiple CVs displaying different ages to test the employers’ age policies,” he said.

Serial saboteur applicants: the key facts

– Applicants make multiple applications for an advertised position including one genuine application, and at least one other application with the same basic information, but declaring a different race, sex or disability

– The applicant then tracks the different treatment applied to applications

– If the genuine application receives less favourable treatment than the falsified applications, they then have evidence to suggest that the employer discriminates against applicants of a particular race, gender or disability

– The employer then has to justify its different treatment of two materially identical applications – particularly difficult without written evidence.

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