Fake qualifications will soon not only get you dismissed but also imprisoned

​​​​​Over the years, there have been various media reports on high-profile employees (particularly politicians) who misrepresent their qualifications to their employer. In fact, for the 2017/18 financial year, the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) uncovered​ 982 fraudulent qualifications including instances where qualifications were embellished or overstated and where employees have been dishonest in their job applications about their qualifications. The introduction of key amendments to our law in the form of the National Qualifications Framework Amendment Act 12 of 2019 (NQFA​) may reduce the use of fraudulent qualifications. The NQFA applies to employers in both the public and private sector.

The NQFA was assented to on 13 August 2019. With the commencement date still to be announced, the NQFA is not law just yet. However, since the law is imminent, this article explores the employment implications of the NQFA.

SAQA powers bolstered

The NQFA​ provides new measures for SAQA to:

  • verify all qualifications and part-qualifications (including foreign qualifications); and
  • establish a register of misrepresented or fraudulent qualifications or part-qualifications

Further, the NQFA introduces criminal sanctions for persons who misrepresent their qualifications through the use of fake or fraudulent qualifications. This is not only limited to misrepresentation on a curriculum vitae or job application. The NQFA broadens its scope of application by holding that it is an offence for any person to falsely or fraudulently claim to hold a qualification that is registered on the National Qualifications Framework or awarded by a recognised and accredited institution.

Any person found to be misrepresenting their qualifications or lying about their educational background could be liable for a fine or imprisonment for up to 5 years.

Educational institutions or skills providers who falsely claim to be registered or accredited by SAQA may also be criminally charged under the NQFA​.

What does this mean for employers?

The NQFA​​ places a new obligation on all employers which is that prior to appointing a new employee, the employer must take steps to authenticate the qualification(s) that is presented to them by the prospective employee. There is uncertainty regarding whether this process must be followed for all prospective employees and what the consequences of non-compliance are for the employer.

Given SAQA's new register of misrepresented qualifications, employers may be able to approach SAQA to authenticate a qualification(s) provided to them by prospective employees.


These materials are provided for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal or other professional advice. While every effort is made to update the information regularly and to offer the most current, correct and accurate information, we accept no liability or responsibility whatsoever if any information is, for whatever reason, incorrect, inaccurate or dated. We accept no responsibility for any loss or damage, whether direct, indirect or consequential, which may arise from access to or reliance on the information contained herein.

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