In employment law, when we talk about references we aren’t talking about quips from films or the list you had to write at the end of an essay at school. References are a statement about an individual applying for a job and because of this they are often given by previous employers or colleagues; Acas have released new guidance on providing such references today.
As an employer, being asked to give a reference could be like rubbing salt into a wound: a star employee leaving for pastures new and you are asked to help them on their way? An employee who was incompetent or has left you in the lurch and you they have the audacity to ask you to vouch for them? It may be tempting but think twice before giving that employee a bad reference.
While there may be no obligation to provide a reference (although certain industries such as those regulated by the Financial Services Authority are required to give a reference by law), if you do decide to give one, there is an obligation on you to make sure that the reference is a true, accurate and fair reflection of the job applicant. If the reference isn’t, then you can find yourself in hot water when that employee is suing for damages for the loss of a job offer.
A reference can be as basic or as detailed as the referee wishes, provided that it is true, accurate and fair. Opinions and personal comments should be avoided except where they are supported by fact.
As an employer it is wise to always protect yourself from being obligated to take someone on where they receive a bad reference by making any offers of employment conditional on satisfactory references being received.
To discuss this or any area of employment law or for more information on our Employer Protection Scheme, please contact the team here at Nalders.