How to avoid the issues when providing a reference for an ex-employee

How to avoid the issues when providing a reference for an ex-employee

February 12, 2021

Yet again this month we have heard of an employer being challenged by an ex-employee over the reference given. Whilst not everyone seeks references for new employees, it is common practice in Early Years for employers to seek references from their candidates and in the case of schools, before an interview has even taken place.

Firstly, the employer is under no legal obligation to provide a reference. However if it is your practice to provide references it will cause you an issue if you decide to decline a request for one. The issue will be that if the employee can provide evidence that they alleged discrimination or whistleblew etc before leaving you, then you not providing a reference runs the risk of a claim for victimisation.

The employer does owe the new employer a duty of take reasonable care to with the reference that is given. Additionally to ensure that you do not breach the Data Protection Regulations the employer should only provide an employment reference where it believes it has the employee/ex-employees consent. It is common practice, when a reference request is made, for employers to enclose evidence of consent to obtain a  reference.

Some practical pointers for providing a reference:

  • Have a reference policy so that you can consistently approach references.
  • Ensure every reference is marked Strictly Private & Confidential.
  • Send the reference only to the addressee who requested it.
  • Check you have consent of the employee/ex-employee before a reference is sent.
  • Be wary of completing a reference request form that may ask questions you do not want to answer.
  • Don’t answer a reference by giving a verbal reference.
  • Ensure only authorised individuals provide Company references.

You can find a copy of our Reference Policy on our shop here.

If you need any assistance with any aspect of references please do not hesitate to give us a call on 01527 306066.




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