A woman steals the identity of an A&E doctor to secure a new job as a fake employee in an NHS hospital. It’s a storyline that had viewers gripped to recent BBC TV drama Trust Me, starring Jodie Whittaker. The scenario posed by this medical thriller raises questions about how businesses establish the identity of their employees and what checks they carry out before taking them on.
In the drama series, when nurse Cath Hardacre is unfairly suspended by a hospital trust, she steals a colleague’s identity to get a job as a doctor in Edinburgh. Whilst there may be some dramatic license at play, there have been similar real life cases.
In 2015, it was revealed that Levon Mkhitarian had passed himself off as a doctor for more than three years at different NHS Trusts. Although he had some medical training, he didn’t have the right qualifications to allow him to legitimately work as a doctor in the UK.
What checks should your business carry out before employing someone?
If you’re short of staff and someone turns up who looks perfect for the job, it’s tempting to get them started straight away. But there are key checks that can reduce your risk of taking on a faker.
You should check that the person you’re hiring is who they say they are and that their details match up to what they’ve told you on their application form, CV and during any interviews.
You can check a person’s identity by asking for original documents such as a passport, driving license or birth certificate. You can also ask for documents that confirm a person’s address, such as a recent bank statement or utility bill.
CIFAS, the UK Fraud Prevention service and CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, say that the level of information requested depends on the risk. They recommend that new employees should provide at least three original documents from a list that includes passport, driving licence, utility bill and bank statement.
Right to work
It is a criminal offence to employ someone who does not have permission to work in the UK. An employer can be sent to jail for five years and pay an unlimited fine if found guilty of employing someone who didn’t have the right to work in the UK.
With changes to immigration and freedom of movement coming in the next two years under Brexit, this is something that businesses and HR departments will have to keep a close eye on.
Depending on the role and the nature of your business, it may also be advisable to check the following:
- Qualifications and certifications
- Health (for physically demanding jobs)
- Criminal record (if working with young, old and vulnerable people)
- Credit records (for some roles in banking, accounting and finance sectors).
You must make sure that any checks are not discriminatory (eg. a health check that discriminates against disabled people and is unnecessary for the job).
In-depth employee checks are not necessary for every role. The CIPD recommends businesses carry out sensible checks based on the what the role involves, what the employee will be exposed to and what the risks are.
How to spot a fake
The most common types of employment fraud are:
- Fake identity documents
- Identity theft (using another person’s ID)
- Partially faked documents (e.g. replacing the legitimate holder’s photo).
When checking things like identity, qualifications and employment history, it’s recommended that you should ask to see original documents.
Guidelines for pre-employment checks
- Make sure checks are carried out for a specific purpose
- Where possible, only check the successful applicant
- Tell applicants what checks will be made and how they will be carried out
- Use trusted sources of information
- If anything makes you suspicious, investigate further.
While getting new employees into your organisation may be a priority, simple checks to make sure they are who they say and have the right skills to work in that role can save your business a lot of trouble in the long run.
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