“Travel the world! Fantastic earning potential! A job for life!”

Sounds like a good job, doesn’t it? It’s not really surprising then, that recruitment advertising like this can attract hundreds of applicants – maybe even the pick of the labour market. However, is it really fair to tempt applicants to apply for a role that does not really deliver on its promise?

There are two issues here – one moral, and the other legal. You may ask why you should advertise a vacancy role with scrupulous advertising when nobody else seems to: after all, a bit of advertising puff is what everyone else is doing, and it won’t do any harm. Besides, it’s up to the applicant to decide if the role is one for them – isn’t it?

In a word, no. Serious problems can arise if the contract of employment is not correct. Even if the successful applicant signs a contract, in some circumstances earlier representations can be taken to be part of the contract of employment – and when the truth about the real nature of the role comes out, you could be in breach of contract.

A properly prepared contract of employment that expressly excludes any prior representations is a wise move. And, to be brutally honest, notice periods are usually so short at the beginning of an employment contract that a claim of breach of contract is unlikely to break the bank.

Even so, ensuring that the employment contract is watertight still may not be an end to problems resulting from a misleading advertisement. Picture the situation: two years into a female manager’s employment, she alleges sex discrimination on the basis that she has not been promoted. You say her expectations are unreasonable, but she argues they are well founded, as the original job advert promised “a rapid route to the top”. In that situation you would have to explain why it was not reasonable for her to rely on your earlier statement – not an attractive prospect for any employer.

Fibbing in a recruitment advert might seem like a good idea at the time, but in can have serious consequences in the longer term – not at least the possibility of destroying any reputation that a company may have as an honest and fair employer.

Published in the Chartered Secretary, September 2008