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May The Force Be With You (as check their references you do!)
Sometimes you just can’t make it up. A recent Birmingham Employment Tribunal Case focused on an employee, Mr NFM, who claimed that his employer, West Atlantic (a cargo airline) had not paid him his due notice of three months when they asked him to leave.

It transpires that the company had discovered that he had provided false references from a fictional Star Wars character when the pilot had successfully applied for a position with the commercial freight airline operator as a captain.

They clearly had not checked the references thoroughly enough before offering him the job because the reference on his application was stated to be provided by “Desilijic Tiure”. As Star Wars fans will know, this character is more commonly known as Jabba the Hutt!

The tribunal heard that, when West Atlantic eventually discovered this, it confronted the employee, who “initially denied but, ultimately, largely admitted” the false referee. They offered him the opportunity to resign on 30 June 2017, which he did. But he then claimed that he should have been paid the full extent of his notice. His claim was subsequently dismissed by the Employment Tribunal.

West Atlantic counterclaimed for recovery of his training costs, because the employee had signed an agreement stating that these were repayable if his employment was terminated within the first six months of him commencing work for them. The tribunal allowed West Atlantic’s counterclaim and awarded £4,725 against Mr NFM.

Whilst being mildly amusing, this case does highlight the importance of making sure that you follow through the checking of references properly. In this case, having a pilot fly a plane whilst not necessarily correctly qualified could have had catastrophic consequences – but the opportunities for fraud in other businesses can also have dire consequences. Cross-checking references is important to rule out some of the more basic lies that often appear in CVs and application forms. And saying to me, “But he seemed such a nice chap that we didn’t bother to check his references,” when I ask about a problem employee should ring warning bells. Fraudsters are usually very convincing people!

Making sure that you check candidates properly is an important part of a recruitment process, but some employers find it difficult to know what they can ask. So Acas has recently published new guidance on employment references at http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=5072.

If you need further advice regarding references or the recruitment process, please get in touch.
Posted on 10 Sep 2018


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