May 22, 2023
Have you or your HR team provided a staff reference recently? Was it a standard one; just name, role and dates of service or did you complete a tick box request? Did you complete all the boxes or leave some blank?
Laws about references are not that easy to identify precisely by googling them.
Employers in England & Wales aren’t generally obliged to provide references. There are some sectors where this isn’t the case and where some employee information must be provided on request to prospective new employers such as in finance or education. At its core, providing a reference is a voluntary process for the majority of employers.
Remember though that when providing references there is a duty of care to make sure they are fair and accurate and not misleading. Employers can be negligent for not providing a correct reference. Do your managers know what to include (or not include) in a reference? Better still, have they received instructions to pass the reference request to HR to respond to?
Remember that references can be limited or marked “without prejudice” or even make clear that it is up to the new employer to satisfy themselves as to the individual’s ability to fulfil the new role.
Sometimes a reference is agreed to be given as part of the agreed terms of an employee exiting employment. Check the terms of any such agreements before giving the reference. Do you need to give a verbal reference? Do you have an option not to provide the reference if new information has come to light since the individual left employment? Have you left your business some flexibility? Uncovering gross misconduct after a settlement agreement has been entered into can cause issues where expert advice about drafting references is needed.
Remember, individuals may in some cases be entitled to see the references that have been provided such as in the course of legal proceedings.
For help with references, don’t hesitate to get in touch.