It has emerged that one of the least known threats to business in the current climate is that of individuals who make false job applications, with the intention of bringing a discrimination claim against the employer. Although many of these 'career applicants' contend that they are motivated by "the common good" and "social justice", they in fact take advantage of employment laws to get as much money as possible from businesses.

Such career applicants are generally from ethnic communities or have some form of disability, gender reassignment or suffer from gender discrimination. However claims are likely to stem from a much broader assortment of applicants in light of the new regulations on sexual orientation and religious belief.

The Application Process

The process involved is worryingly simple. Career applicants make duplicate applications to employers with identical experience, however they make one specific change, either including or omitting a detail which may lead to a claim for discrimination. Issues of similarity in layout and format are removed through the use of computers.

The employer then receives two applications with almost identical information but which appear on the face of it to be different. For example, one application may detail that the applicant has no disability, whereas the other may specify that the applicant uses a wheelchair. If the employer only selects the 'able' applicant the career applicant would be very likely to be able to establish a successful claim on the grounds of disability discrimination. It would be very difficult for the employer in such a situation to successfully defend the claim. Such cases are on the increase, so much so that certain individuals have become known to some Employment Tribunals due to the fact that they have made numerous applications.

Cost to the Prospective Employer

In terms of cost to the employer, the tribunal is likely to award compensation amounting to the wages the applicant would have received in the job for the period of time it would be reasonable for the applicant to find equivalent work. Loss of earnings awards may also be greater in cases of disability discrimination where it is recognised that it may take longer for the individual to find work. There may also be an award for injury to feelings, which could range between £500 and £5000. Although it is possible that the employer could defend such a claim, prevention is key.

Practical Safeguards

Employers should take the following steps in order to reduce the potential for such claims:

  • Avoid relying solely on CV applications by requiring applicants to complete standardised application forms to ensure clear data thus making comparison easier.
  • When selecting applicants to be interviewed ensure that the criteria used are objective to ensure that applicants are not called or rejected on discriminatory grounds.
  • Document your application process to help defend any subsequent claims. Any letters sent to applicants calling them for an interview or rejecting them must set out the criteria upon which this decision was based.
  • Ensure that your organisation has an Equal Opportunities policy and make reference to it in job adverts to make it clear that you encourage diversity at work.
  • Try to ensure that you have a diverse workforce in terms of gender, race, disability etc. This will be good evidence that you organisation is non-discriminatory.

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