Part One – The Reality of References
This is a question I get asked numerously and thought I would republish a blog I wrote a while ago titled ‘The Reality of References’. This is divided into two with the next section “Your Referencing Duties’ being published next week.
The subject of references is full of myths and misconception.
Employers worry about what information they are entitled to ask for; and the consequences of getting it wrong. The lack of detailed legislation about providing references simply adds to the confusion.
Can an employer refuse to provide a reference for an employee?
Yes. It is increasingly common practice to provide bare minimum references. Failure to provide a reference carries risks too. If it is common practice to provide references however this doesn’t happen for a particular employee, this could be seen as discrimination, victimisation or breach of contract.
Consensus HR recommends a simple reference confirming employments facts such as job title, service dates and salary.
What should an employer consider before supplying a reference?
- Ensure the reference is factually accurate, fair and not misleading.
- Establish if there is an express contractual obligation to provide a reference.
- Consider any implied contractual obligation to provide a reference.
- Check for any potential discrimination claims which may result if no reference is provided.
- If providing a reference, ensure that it is prepared by the individual’s line manager or person responsible within the company who has been trained in preparing references. This person should have all the relevant information regarding the individual.
- Check all employee information, such as dates of employment, career history, appraisals and record of absenteeism etc.
- Has the reference been addressed to a named person rather than ‘to whom it may concern’?
- Has disclosure of spent criminal convictions been avoided?
- Has a disclaimer been included?
- Ensure that company policy is followed and action is consistent with previous reference requests.
Where a compromise arrangement has been reached, reach an agreement on the precise wording of the reference. This can avoid any future litigation.
Look out for our next blog which discusses employers’ duties when providing references… and the potential cost of getting it wrong.