The rapid and vicious spread of COVID-19 has caused havoc in the global economy and has caused companies the world over to either close their doors or begin mass retrenchments. This has put the everyday person in an unenviable position, what are you willing to do to gain employment in an economy where this is barely possible? Proving your worth once you are employed is the easy part but getting your feet through the door, where hordes of people are trying to push in as well, is the greatest difficulty. How do you stand out? Well, for starters, lying should be out of the question.
A quick view of the jurisprudence regarding misrepresentations by an employee of material facts or of qualifications on their curriculum vitae (‘cv’) will lead to a certain conclusion – gross dishonesty is a justifiable and substantively fair reason to dismiss an employee, as has been held in LTE Consulting (Pty) Ltd, Buffalo City Metro and numerous other cases.
The question which we are then faced with asking ourselves is quite simple- why has this not curbed dishonesty and misrepresentations by employees when submitting a cv to a prospective employer?
After all, the consequences could be far-reaching for an employer, including but certainly not limited to civil action being taken against an employer for authorising an unqualified individual to carry out work required to be completed by persons holding necessary qualifications, let alone belonging to registered and authorised bodies. Employers may now institute criminal proceedings against employees who misrepresent qualifications or professional designations on their cv.
The National Qualifications Framework Amendment Act (‘the Act’) establishes measures for employers to ensure the authenticity of qualifications or professional designations, as employers can now contact the South African Qualifications Authority (‘SAQA’) directly to ascertain the correctness of a qualification or a part qualification as opposed to having to wait for an employee to provide information or certification, particularly in situations where employees are hesitant to do so.
The Act is particular as to what it considers to be a misrepresentation of a qualification (or a part qualification) as –
- one which is not authentic; or
- one where a certificate of award or a SAQA Certificate of Evaluation was erroneously issued or altered in any way.
Section 32B of the Act offers the offences and penalties which will result from intentional misrepresentation of a qualification or a part qualification. This section creates offences for both persons involved in misrepresentations and institutions who knowingly allow for misrepresentations to take place.
Broadly, an employee will be considered to have misrepresented a qualification or a part qualification if they, inter alia: –
- Knowingly or intentionally provide misleading information;
- Falsely and fraudulently claim to be holding a qualification or part qualification which is registered on the National Qualifications Framework (‘NQF’);
- Falsely and fraudulently claim to be awarded a qualification or part qualification from an education institution, skills development provider or obtained from a lawfully recognised foreign institution.
Any person who commits an offence as contemplated in Section 32B of the Act will be liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years, or to both a fine and imprisonment.
The above scenario should not be confused with one where an employee bona fide believes to be holding a qualification from an institution which they believe to have proper accreditation but does in fact not. This discussion, however, falls outside of the ambit of this article and falls within the scope of criminal law and justifiable defence to the offences contemplated in section 32B of the Act.
It is quite clear from the above that the legislature is taking the issue of misrepresentation of qualification extremely seriously. This is a welcome reprieve for employers who have had to carry the burden of potential liability for years. Employers are now able to take appropriate measures to confirm the qualifications of their employees and to take the appropriate disciplinary and criminal action where necessary.
Employers must keep in mind that they are still required to follow the proper procedure to institute disciplinary action against an employee in situations where a misrepresentation regarding a qualification takes place.
Any employer wishing to confirm a qualification need only go to the SAQA website which is www.saqa.org.za and follow the necessary steps which are required.
Article by: Avishkar Singh
Dispute Resolution Official – Durban