Employee References

31 January 2020

The start of the year is often a busy time for recruiters and candidates with the launch of new jobs and as a result there is usually quite a bit of candidate activity and movement. Employers often seek references as part of the recruitment and selection of a new candidate and can also find themselves being asked to provide a reference for a current or former employee. So, you may find yourself be pondering over whether to provide a reference for an employee and who would be the most appropriate person to provide it? Should it be compiled by the employee’s line manager or HR? Certainly, whoever is the most relevant person individually, or identified by policy, should be trained in preparing references and have all the relevant information available. Most importantly an employer should ensure that the reference is both accurate and fair, and not misleading in the overall impression it gives to the recipient.

Some things for employers to first consider will include if there is an express contractual obligation to provide a reference, or any implied contractual obligation to provide a reference or not.

Did you realise that It’s also very sensible to consider whether there are any consequences of refusing to provide a reference, including any potential discrimination claims? Also, since any decision to provide a reference should be based on facts, it’s very important to check all the employee’s information and the accuracy of it including job title, dates of employment, career history, appraisals, and record of absenteeism.

Also, it’s practical to consider that disclosure of any spent criminal convictions has been avoided and you may wish to include a disclaimer. References should be marked as “confidential” and addressed to a named person.

Verbal references should be avoided but if a verbal reference is provided then notes should be kept of the conversation and no statements made that the employer would not be willing to make in writing.

If supplying a reference where a compromise agreement has been reached with the employee, it may be appropriate to reach an agreement too on the exact scope and phraseology contained in the reference.

Please also remember that although references are given in confidence, the completed reference recipient may be required to disclose a reference under certain circumstances.

So, here’s some food for thought to consider when recruiting new staff. Good luck in your search!