Providing written references for ex-employees is common practice and it’s not unusual to be asked to provide a reference for former or current employees.
In the UK, the majority of employers make a job offer conditional upon the receipt of satisfactory references and, although former employers are not obliged to provide references, there are a number of situations where employees are legally entitled to a reference.
For example, if it is already written into the ex-employee’s contract that they are entitled to a reference upon leaving the business, employers must acknowledge any reference request and respond appropriately.
Other scenarios where employers must provide a reference on request include:
- If it is the employer’s usual practice to provide one
- If it has been promised that the ex-employee will receive one
- If there is a regulatory requirement to provide one
- A reference must not be refused on discriminatory grounds
Here’s our guide to the do’s and don’ts of ex-employee references.
The main purpose of a reference is to provide information that is accurate, fair and true. There are lots of other basic do’s and don’ts that all employers must take into account when providing a reference.
At the same time, not all references need to be fully comprehensive and employers can decide to only incorporate the bare facts such as the position held and the dates of employment.
Here are some standard rules to follow when providing a reference:
- All opinions expressed must be reasonable
- All references must always be marked private and confidential
- You must be able to justify and support all comments made
- All references must follow consistent guidelines to avoid instances of discrimination
- Allocate employees that are responsible for providing references so that they can familiarise themselves with company policies and adopt best practices.
And here is what you shouldn’t be doing when providing a reference:
- A reference should not be given over the phone as it is a formal document
- You should not refer to any disciplinary action against the employee in question
- Any negative facts or misleading statements regarding the employee’s performance or capabilities should not be included
- Medical information should not be included
- All statement need to be correct and not untrue
- Reference to an employee’s attendance, sickness or performance should not be included.
And finally, you should not allow any grievance to affect the terms of the reference you are providing.
To find out more about providing employee references, please contact us.