I'm a web designer and I've been working at my current company now for about 6/7 months and I've witnessed many questionable things. Some of which I know are against the law but some of which I really don't know.

I think I'll start with the lies.

He lies so much. To me, to other employees, to clients, to the government and god knows who else.

The lies he tells to the clients range from lies about deadlines and progress (which I sometimes understand) but the lies I don't know how to take are about what he tells clients on how we build our sites. He sells all our sites as bespoke, handcoded and uniquely built sites when in reality we just download a template and change the content/photos.

This to me feels a bit like fraud but I'm still new to this industry so I'm not sure.

On top this we discovered that our rival offer government grants to clients for up to £2000 for website development. After some research he found that you have to meet certain criteria to access this fund. He then went about creating a lie so that we as a company would qualify when in reality we don't at all.

The guy who was my manager when I started (he has left now) was also a shareholder had his wages withheld as a motivational tool. I was convinced that this was illegal but I've heard that because he was a shareholder there is no legal requirement for him to have a wage. Is this true?

We also have a fire exit which is locked, caged, padlocked and tied with a rope shut all day as he is paranoid. This one I am convinced is illegal and have reported it today (just waiting for a reply):

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The reason I have decided to write this question now is because as the only developer left I am having to attend a meeting with a client who has been lied to an unbelievable amount but beforehand I have to have a briefing with him to catch up on all the lies he has told them (his words not mine).

I don't know what to do as I am looking elsewhere but need to keep this job in the short term. I am not comfortable with lying and my ability to even keep the lies up but I don't think he'll react well to me being unwilling.

I can't believe I forgot to out this one. He told me that if I am ever asked (even by a friend, for free) to do any freelance work then I HAVE to give them his number and do it through the business or he has to fire me for it is written in my contract. To me that sounds like crap but then again I know nothing of employment law.

  • Yeah it is bad especially when you consider that i work with two 16 year old apprentices in the office upstairs that has no windows
    – jampez77
    Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 23:10
  • "avoid asking subjective questions where … your question is just a rant in disguise: “______ sucks, am I right?”" (help center)
    – gnat
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 8:26
  • Yeah im expecting a bad reaction but the guy said it would be anonymous
    – jampez77
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 11:52
  • 3
    Try looking for another job with some good company. You should never work with unethical people.
    – cartina
    Commented Oct 7, 2014 at 6:31
  • 9
    Locked or inaccessible fire exits are illegal in the UK. Your local fire service/authority has legal powers to do surprise inspections. They will often do this if tipped off about possible unsafe practices. For instance in the Thames valley area it would be london-fire.gov.uk/SafetyAtWork.asp which states "A 'risk to life' could include a disregard to fire safety practices, for example, blocked or locked fire exits." They should be good about you providing a tip off and just turning up to do an inspection for no reason officially. They want offences fixed not employees fired.
    – TafT
    Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 11:29

3 Answers 3

  1. You should try to talk your way out of any future face to face contact with the clients - If there is a face that clients should associate with his lies, it should be his not yours. He made those lies, he gets to own them.

  2. You are no doubt going to have a whoppers-filled meeting with the client. Always preface every whopper with "my boss says that ..." So far as the client is concerned, you have no opinion of your own - you just work here. If the client tries to dig any deeper into anything you say, repeat "please follow up with my boss" If the client thinks you're unprepared, then the client is right: you're unprepared to lie.

  3. I find the idea that wages be withheld from an employee because the employee is a shareholder absurd on its face. Do you have any idea how many employees are shareholders in the startup communities of the Silicon Valley and NYC? Thanks to your boss, I learn something new every day. I have no idea how things work legally in the UK, but if your government is trying to recreate a Silicon Valley on the Thames with this kind of restriction on shareholders, I expect this effort to be a bust.

@Styphon makes the qualifying comment "Re #3 It's common for shareholders (normally directors) to only have a minimum wage and then have their actual wage paid in dividends through their shares as they end up paying less tax, so no its not that uncommon in the UK for a shareholder to not receive a wage"

  • 8
    Re #2: I'd tell the boss "I don't think I can say that with a straight face. You're probably better off leaving me out of the meeting." Then again, I would have quit long ago.
    – keshlam
    Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 21:53
  • 1
    I like the suggestions for number two. I know I can't get out of the meeting really as I'm having to answer technical questions which he just can't. I don't work on the thames though lol. I work in a small town and if I did work somewhere like the thames I would be finding it much easier to get a job elsewhere
    – jampez77
    Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 21:55
  • 3
    Re #3 It's common for shareholders (normally directors) to only have a minimum wage and then have their actual wage paid in dividends through their shares as they end up paying less tax, so no its not that uncommon in the UK for a shareholder to not receive a wage.
    – Styphon
    Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 22:07
  • 1
    @Styphon I incorporated your comment into my answer, giving you full credit, of course :) Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 23:12
  • 2
    @Styphon: But the company cannot withhold dividends to one share holder and pay to others, so the boss would be without money as well - unless he extracts it from the company in some illegal way, which sounds a possibility here.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 8:09

The important bit:

[I] need to keep this job in the short term

Do you, really? You may very well be risking your life working under described conditions. Just recently hundreds of workers in Bangladesh died in a single fire because the bosses kept the fire doors shut. What usually makes the difference between the first and the third world are the un-lockable fire exits. You may not be working with chemical substances or flammable material, but sure enough you have at least an electric socket near you, that's enough to cause fire.

Regarding all other points you mention: Authorities should be informed.

So what should you do? In your position I'd reconsider the downsides of not having a secure job on the line and just quit as quickly as possible.

If you know about your boss' fiddling with governmental subsidies, or someone gets injured because of the locked-up fire door and you don't have a proof of your legally valid course of action (written objections/refusals, notifications to respective authorities), you may (under circumstances varying with jurisdiction) be found to take part in punishable conduct.


With respect to recent development in this particular case (leaving the job without notice and subsequently facing legal issues), one thing should be said: run for your life after all legal obligations on your side have been fulfilled. Informing the respective authorities about so excessive violations of safety regulations (as the locked fire door is) may help you speed up your legally correct departure from such company!

  • 2
    You have a good point but the reality is i have bills to pay and quitting my job without having one lined up will put my living situation in jepardy :/
    – jampez77
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 9:53
  • @jampez77 I can imagine that (I turned to black numbers personally after at least a year in my first job!), but I wanted to provide a broader perspective. Hopefully there's someone in your social circle to help you out for a short period of time. Imagine you fell you really, really need to make it to an appointment. Are going to take a car with leaking brakes and failed MOT? These situations are difficult when faced directly, but there should be certain long-term priorities set by the common sense...
    – Pavel
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 9:59
  • 6
    I'd appreciate if the downvoter added a comment as to what is wrong with this answer. Thank you.
    – Pavel
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 12:55

I don't know what country you are in, but where I live engineers are responsible for what they deliver. So if someone dies because I deliver faulty products or knowingly allow faulty products to be delivered, then I go to prison. Ditto if actively lying or conniving in lying about what your products can do, or whatever, you, yes you yourself, are guilty of fraud.

As it says further down, if it's a lie, preface it by "my boss says". Never sign off code or test reports if you don't like it. Never. Better still, find an excuse not to present this stuff to the customer.

But firstly, get a new job and get out of there, don't wait another day. And find an alternative exit route in case of fire.

And, oh yes, if there is a fire and people die because you didn't report the chained-up fire exit, then you too are at fault. I see below you reported it in a roundabout way, but do it in writing. Mail your boss and his boss that this is illegal and dangerous. Do it right now. This is not a joke, these are people's lives.

  • 9
    I have sat in a meeting with customers and said "I don't want to answer that", because it would have been unethical. It gave me a great reputation with customer and QA, though the project leader was furious of course. He had to answer it himself. He did not tell the lie he wanted me to. Strange that. I left that department as soon as possible, and the project leader crashed and burned soon after.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 11:06
  • That's an interesting idea. but i think it would only really work if he was in the meeting with me i think
    – jampez77
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 13:53
  • 2
    Then I would have said, I can't answer that, you'll have to ask X. And if pressed, I would say, only X can tell you that. They might have to call X in or postpone a decision. The bottom line is, no matter how much I need this job, I will not compromise my integrity/reputation/freedom for X's momentary advantage.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Sep 14, 2014 at 10:32
  • 1
    the issue with that is that I am having this meeting because they have technical questions which he can't answer and only I 'can'. The problem with that is he has lied to the client about how we have built it. He has told them that it is all hand coded by me alone when in reality it is just a Joomla template. Additionally to this I'm not developing this project at all anymore. We hired an offshore team due to time constraints so any new code is theres but we are not allowed to say that to the client while pretending to know the inns and outs of all the new features and bugs :/
    – jampez77
    Commented Sep 14, 2014 at 10:40

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