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Q&A: When lying at work can result in dismissal

Q&A: When lying at work can result in dismissal

Q: I have an employee who is prone to lying. Their lies have included saying they’ve completed work when they haven’t. How should I manage this employee?

A: Most people are guilty of telling a white lie at some stage of their life. When it is an employee who has been identified as a liar, this can undermine the employment relationship and lead to hostile feelings among colleagues.  

The employee needs to be actively managed. Not taking any action will indicate that they can continue getting away with this behaviour. Leaving the behaviour unchallenged will also send a negative sign to colleagues and those in the same team, especially where they have raised concerns or reported the behaviour to their employer.  

Lying at work will be classed as misconduct and should be addressed under the company’s normal disciplinary procedures. Depending on what the employee has actually lied about will affect whether this is deemed misconduct, serious misconduct or even gross misconduct. 

The disciplinary procedure should always start with a full investigation into the matter. The investigation is carried out to gather as much evidence as possible about the employee’s lies, including interviewing and taking statements from any witnesses. 

Once an investigation has been carried out, the employee can be invited to a disciplinary hearing. Any evidence should be provided to the employee in advance and a reasonable amount of notice needs to be given to allow them to review this and prepare their defence. At the hearing, the employee should be questioned about their misconduct and any explanations or defence given should be noted. 

At this stage, the employee may explain that they have lied about completing work because they did not know how to complete it so felt this was the best course of action. 

If this explanation is given, it may be more appropriate to place the employee on a capability procedure as they cannot complete the work, rather than will not complete the work. 

Extra training and support can then be given to ensure the employee is not placed in this position again. 

If no satisfactory explanation is given for their misconduct, a formal disciplinary sanction can be imposed. This will usually start at a low level, such as a verbal or first written warning, that can be placed on the employee’s file for a specified period of time. 

This sanction will act as an effective deterrent as the employee is now aware that they will be punished for this behaviour. 

If, however, the employee continues to lie and commit further acts of misconduct, there can be further disciplinary action and sanctions can progress in seriousness up to, and including, dismissal.

Peter Done is managing director of law firm, Peninsula