Trust in the Workplace: Misleading and Deceptive Conduct

Misleading and Deceptive Conduct in the Workplace


Trust between employers and employees is essential in every workplace. However, misleading and deceptive conduct can seriously undermine this trust.

This article will explore the surrounding laws on misleading and deceptive conduct in the workplace and highlight on how both employers and employees should respond, with a particular emphasis on the implications of such conduct for employers.

Defining Misleading and Deceptive Conduct

Defining Misleading and Deceptive Conduct

In Australia, the primary legislation governing misleading and deceptive conduct is the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), which is part of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. While the ACL traditionally focuses on consumer transactions, its principles have been extended to employment relationships, recognising the inherent power imbalance between employers and employees.

Misleading and deceptive conduct, as defined by the ACL, refers to actions or representations that create a false or misleading impression. This can include verbal statements, written communication, or even non-verbal conduct that leads to a misconception. In a workplace context, this could manifest in various ways, such as making false promises during the hiring process, providing inaccurate information about job responsibilities, or deceptive practices related to employee benefits.

Employers and Misleading Conduct

The employer / employee relationship is inherently built on trust. If an employer breaches this trust through misleading conduct, it can have significant legal and reputational consequences.

The ACL provides remedies for employees who have suffered loss or damage as a result of misleading conduct, including compensation, injunctions, and damages.

In addition to legal consequences, misleading conduct can harm an employer’s reputation, leading to difficulties in attracting and retaining top talent.

Negative publicity resulting from legal actions or public scrutiny can tarnish the company’s image, affecting relationships with clients, customers, and stakeholders.

As such, employers should be vigilant in their interactions with employees to ensure compliance with the ACL and maintain a fair and transparent work environment.

Particular attention should be paid in relation to recruitment, employment contracts, and adherence to workplace policies.


One of the most common situations where misleading conduct occurs is where employers make false representations to potential employees during the recruitment process. This could include promises of career advancement, specific job responsibilities, or additional benefits that do not materialise after the individual is hired, which the employee relied on in accepting the position. Such misrepresentations can lead to dissatisfaction, legal claims, and damage to the employer’s reputation.

To mitigate risk, employers should provide accurate and transparent information about the role, company culture, and benefits, during the recruitment process. Any deviations from these representations should be communicated promptly to avoid accusations of misleading conduct.

Employment Contracts

Misleading conduct can also occur through deceptive clauses in employment contracts. Employers must ensure that contractual terms are clear, unambiguous, and reflect the actual conditions of employment. Clauses that are likely to mislead employees about their rights, responsibilities, or entitlements can lead to legal challenges.

Employers should regularly review and update employment contracts to ensure compliance with the law and avoid unintentional misrepresentations. Seeking legal advice during the drafting or revision process can help identify and rectify any potentially misleading clauses.

Workplace Policies

Employers may engage in misleading conduct by violating their own workplace policies. For instance, if an employer fails to follow established procedures for performance evaluations, promotions, or disciplinary actions, it can create a false impression of fairness and transparency.

To address this, employers should consistently adhere to their policies and procedures, ensuring that all employees are treated fairly and equitably. Deviations from established processes should be justified and communicated clearly to avoid perceptions of misleading conduct.

Additional Steps for Employers

In addition to the steps outlined above, employers can consider the following proactive measures to avoid misleading conduct:

Comprehensive Training

Ensure that all employees involved in recruitment, human resources, and management are well-versed in the requirements of the ACL and the potential consequences of misleading conduct.

Transparent Communication

Foster a culture of transparency and open communication within the organisation. Clearly communicate expectations, policies, and any changes to employment conditions to avoid misunderstandings and potential claims.

Regular Compliance Audits

Conduct regular audits of recruitment processes, employment contracts, and workplace policies to identify and rectify any potential sources of misleading conduct.

Legal Guidance

Seek legal advice when drafting or revising employment contracts, especially when introducing new policies or making significant changes to existing ones. Legal professionals can help ensure compliance with the ACL and other relevant laws.

Employees and Misleading Conduct

Employees are also able to engage in misleading and deceptive conduct, whether it be inadvertent or intentional.. This may occur during the recruitment process or in the course of employment. For example, an applicant might exaggerate their qualifications or experience to secure a job, creating a false impression of their capabilities.

In the workplace, an employee may misrepresent their skills or achievements to gain recognition or promotions, potentially impacting the employer’s decision-making process. In some cases, an employee might spread false information about the company’s financial health or engage in deceptive practices that harm the organisation’s reputation.


The relationship between employer and employee is an incredibly important one and one that is founded on trust and transparency.

Specifically during the recruitment and hiring process, employers must ensure that they do not attempt to induce employees to accept an offer through misleading or deceptive conduct.

Similarly, during the recruitment and hiring process, employees should be honest about their qualifications and experience to avoid misleading or deceiving potential or existing employers.

The information in this article is for general purposes only and you should obtain professional advice relevant to your specific circumstances.

Get in touch

If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice in relation to misleading or deceptive conduct in the workplace, please contact us.

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