393: Can a job applicant bring an unjust enrichment claim for advice given to a prospective employer?
In the case of Ogedegbe v Simplyhealth People Ltd, the High Court struck out an unjust enrichment claim brought by an unsuccessful job applicant who claimed that advice he had given during and following his interview had benefited the employer.
Mr Ogedegbe applied for a job with Simplyhealth, a health insurance company. As part of the recruitment process, he had to perform a sales pitch for one of Simplyhealth’s products. Afterwards, he contacted the interviewers to point out that the company’s website omitted information on premiums and levels of cover that would help potential customers make an informed decision. Mr Ogedegbe was unsuccessful in his job application but wrote to the CEO of Simplyhealth again pointing out the missing website information and complaining that his interview had been unfair. After noticing some time later that the website had been updated, Mr Ogedegbe contacted the company seeking a £20,000 fee for ‘Business Consultancy services which prompted Simplyhealth to correct their errors on the website.’ When Simplyhealth refused to pay, he brought a claim for unjust enrichment.
An unjust enrichment claim may arise where one person benefits financially at the expense of another, for example, where a party has provided a service but not been paid for it. There does not need to be a contract between the parties in order to bring a claim.
An unjust enrichment claim in an employment context is rare, and the facts of this case are unusual. As the High Court observed here, job candidates often offer ideas on how they could make a difference if recruited, but these comments are directed at securing employment and nothing more. Nevertheless, to minimise risk, interview questions and scenarios should ideally be put to candidates on a generic or hypothetical basis.
The High Court dismissed Mr Ogedegbe’s claim as having no real prospect of success, ruling that his emails were voluntary communications that aimed to secure employment, not to offer website services. Crucially, his communications were not such that a reasonable person could have known that payment was expected. There was also no evidence that Simplyhealth had received any extra revenue or benefit from the changes to its website.
It is also worth noting that an unjust enrichment claim may be possible where an employee claims payment for work done outside the scope of their existing contract of employment. However, these types of claims are complex, difficult to prove, and must be brought in the civil courts rather than an employment tribunal.
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