Question of the Month: References

We received several questions this month about what references employers should and shouldn’t provide for employees who have now left your business. So we answered the most common questions…

Do I have to provide a reference?

An employer doesn’t have to give a work reference – but if they do, it must be fair and accurate. Workers may be able to challenge a reference they think is unfair or misleading.

When do I have to give a reference?

Employers must give a reference if:

  • there was a written agreement to do so (check your contracts)
  • they’re in a regulated industry, like financial services

What advice do you give to employers when providing a reference?

References must be factual and accurate. Keep it brief and include only the following information;

  • Job title
  • Salary
  • Dates of employment

If someone is dismissed for gross misconduct, should I mention it?

We would advise just keeping the reference brief and including the points mentioned above rather than mentioning the reasons for someone leaving the business.

An employee thinks we gave them a bad reference. What is going to happen now?

If the worker thinks they’ve been given an unfair or misleading reference, they may be able to claim damages in a court. 
Employees must be able to show that:

  • The reference was misleading or inaccurate
  • The employee ‘suffered a loss’ – for example, a job offer was withdrawn

Am I morally obligate to inform the new employer that the employee was sacked for gross misconduct for a safeguarding reason?

Our advice is that to protect the business, you are best to stick to the above guidance in terms of factual references with job title and dates of employment only.

We appreciate that you may want to share more information with the new employer but we advise that it is best to keep the information factual and short.

Should you have any questions feel free to reach out to our help line. DLP advisers are available to answer any questions you may have—24 hours a day—at 0330 400 4454.

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