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10 Years Younger

Remember that programme on TV; 10 Years Younger? It ran for five series, and involved the presenter, Nicky Hambleton-Jones, overseeing the makeover of members of the British public who looked a bit past their sell-by date. Thanks to plastic surgery, dentistry, hair-styling, make-up and outfits, the participants all ended up looking fab and usually nothing like their original selves. Quite often more than ten years was knocked off their original look. It must be nice to get rid of a few wrinkles, but it always surprised me how much money (and pain) some people will suffer to have a younger appearance. Ageing is a natural process and as long as you know how to make the best of what you’ve got, I say embrace it!

However, not everybody holds the same view. Age is a sensitive subject - especially where recruitment is concerned. Despite legislation to protect both young and old applicant from suffering discrimination on grounds of age, older workers often find it considerably harder to find work. This does make some people quite desperate for a job. Some go the whole hog and resort to all kinds of tactics, including lying. And it does happen. Take the recent case of Otigba v Consensa Care Ltd, for example.

Ms Otigba was appointed as an accountant for a company that runs care homes. Although she did well in the selection process, she was dismissed after being employed for less than a month for lying about her age on her CV.

What had happened was this. Her appointment was made subject to satisfactory references and a criminal records check. She did not work directly in the care home, but her job involved handling the personal money of vulnerable adults, so she was in a position of trust. The references were satisfactory, but the criminal record check revealed discrepancies in Ms Otigba’s personal details, so the company carried out further checks.

Ms Otigba was suspended whilst the documents she had provided were checked. The discrepancies related to her date of birth (her passport stated that she was born in 1969, but she had put that it was 1959 on the criminal records check request form) and surname (her passport stated it as “Otigba” but her birth certificate said “Otigbah”).

Checks of her LinkedIn profile, accountancy certificates and medical card were consistent in stating that her year of birth was 1969, although the latter document looked as though it had been altered by hand. Her driving licence suggested that the year of her birth as 1959.

Ms Otigba was dismissed following a disciplinary hearing. She claimed wrongful dismissal arguing that the company breached her contract by its failure to give her notice pay. The tribunal rejected her claim. On the basis that Ms Otigba was required to handle money belonging to vulnerable adults, the tribunal accepted that company could not be expected to have any trust in an employee who had tried to “deliberately disguise a lost decade in her life”.

Make any confirmation of appointment subject to background checks and the successful completion of a probation period. If the employee is unsatisfactory, then this will soon become obvious. If an employee lies during his or her application, you may have grounds to dismiss, but if you do make sure you follow a fair procedure. Dismissal should not be the automatic outcome, Remember that there may be a valid explanation.

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