News stories about crimes such as identity fraud or false qualifications usually focus on the price paid by the individual, rather than the organisation that employed them.
But even when an organisation is not found to have breached any laws and did the right thing by reporting a crime as soon as they became aware of it, they can still suffer significant brand damage. This in turn can lead to financial losses that massively outweigh the fines or penalties paid by the criminals themselves.
Below, we share some examples from the healthcare industry and electrical trade about compliance breaches and the consequences paid by employees and their employers.
The internet has given rise to a large-scale shadow industry of forgers offering fake (and often “certified”) diplomas, degrees, and academic transcripts. This means employers should no longer take an academic certificate at face value and must validate qualification claims.
In some industries, a fake qualification can put peoples’ welfare at real risk. For example, someone who has lied their way into an engineering job could work on a bridge that may one day collapse due to a gap in their knowledge. But the industry that truly stands out as having the worst consequences of fake qualifications is Healthcare.
There are several notable stories reported in the Australian media about Healthcare practitioners with fake qualifications, including:
- A fake doctor was fined $10,000 and sentenced to a two-year intensive correction order in January 2022. After failing her exams, the individual worked as a medical intern from January to August 2021 at Bankstown Hospital in Sydney after providing fake documents to get the job. She completed 126 shifts that “risked the lives of patients and staff”, before her employment was terminated when the hospital requested paperwork which she could not provide.
- Two people were permanently banned from working in healthcare in 2021 after faking medical credentials. The so-called scientists worked for NSW Health in pathology roles, including Technical Officer and Hospital Scientists. An investigation was launched after one of the false practitioners gave two patients incompatible blood during a transfusion.
- A fake IVF doctor was jailed for 10 years in 2018 for 51 offences relating to sexual assault and deception after masquerading as a fertility specialist. The man had never studied medicine.
Consequences: In the case of fake medical qualifications, consequences include:
- Dangerous or even fatal outcomes for patients
- Criminal charges and potential jail time for individuals.
- $30,000 to $60,000 per offence for individuals and $60,000 to $120,000 for corporate entities caught deceiving patients.
- Reputational damage and damaged patient trust for organisations that hired people on the strength of fake qualifications and/or failed to discover the deception fast enough.
How to avoid this happening: A Cited AHPRA Registration (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency) Check verifies an individual’s proof of identity and details on the Register of Practitioners.
In February 2022 an electrical company in Mandurah, WA, was fined $21,500 after a 19-year-old apprentice was “brought back from the dead” following a severe electric shock while working on a hot water unit. His supervisor was on the phone at the time the incident occurred. Paramedics arrived to find the apprentice had stopped breathing and had no pulse, but were able to restart his heart with a defibrillator.
While the bulk of the fine ($20,000) was due to ineffective supervision and failing to ensure the apprentice would not come into contact with live components, the company also had to pay $1,500 because the apprentice did not hold an Electrician’s Training Licence. Notably, a condition of the Electrician’s Training Licence is that “Electrician’s training licence holders may only undertake electrical work when under the supervision of a fully licensed electrician.”
- Severe workplace injury.
- A $1,500 fine for failing to have an Electrician’s Training Licence, on top of the $20,000 court-ordered fine.
- Reputational damage for the electrical company that will undoubtedly cause potential clients to regard them as unsafe.
How to avoid this happening: While the OH&S aspect could be avoided with better processes and supervision, the licence-related fine could have been avoided by ordering an online Electrical Workers Licence check.
Brand and reputational damage can be costly
In the internet age, most customers take the time to perform a basic online search before making a decision about engaging with an organisation. Having a negative news article appear at the top of a Google search – such as an article about employing an unqualified medical intern for eight months – will inevitably cause some potential patients to look elsewhere for a more trustworthy healthcare provider.
Over time, this represents an opportunity cost for the organisation that will vastly outweigh the penalty paid by the guilty individual. Avoid this situation by performing rigorous background and compliance checks for your entire workforce to protect not only your customers, but the health of your brand as well.
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Get in touch to discuss CVCheck/Cited’s proven workforce verification and compliance solutions today. Learn how to manage the verification, engagement and ongoing compliance management of complex workforces with ease.