References: to give or not to give?
As an employer, there is no legal duty to provide a reference for a former or current employee, however, there are certain exceptions. It’s mandatory for an employer to give a reference if:
It’s contractual, e.g. it’s included in the employee’s contract or settlement agreement, or it has been otherwise agreed between employer and employee
- The employment is regulated, e.g. by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
- The above circumstances aside, as an employer you are within your right to refuse to provide a reference.
I need to write a reference for an employee; what should I include?
The reference should be accurate and truthful. If it contains unflattering information, it should never be malicious. If an employee suspects they haven’t gained a job because of a malicious or inaccurate reference, they could pursue a claim at the Tribunal and/or Civil Court. The new employer could potentially have a claim too if the old employer got the reference wrong.
Some employers simply provide a reference recording the dates of the employment and the job title. If employers have this policy, or indeed a policy not to provide references, this should be consistently held and should be made clear in any response to a request for a reference.
Acas’ ‘Providing a job reference’ guide is helpful for both employers and employees. Employers should be sure to seek legal advice if they don’t want an ex-employee to see a reference.
If you’re an employer and you need some legal advice on references, or any other employment matter such as contracts, settlement agreements or redundancy, our employment solicitors are here to help.