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Employment References - The New ACAS Guidance

ACAS has just published new guidance on providing employment references. We thought this would be a good opportunity to remind employers of some points to consider when you are asked to provide a reference about one of your current or former employees.

Is there a legal obligation to provide an employment reference?

In general, there is no legal obligation on employers to provide references about their employees, although there is a duty to do so in certain regulated industries, such as financial services.

What should an employment reference include - and not include?

The key point to remember is that a reference must be a true, accurate and fair reflection of the employee.

Employers can usually choose how much information they want to provide, but it is best to have a set policy in place about what references will cover, so that employees know what to expect. 

It is generally safest to limit references to factual issues, such as the job applicant's employment dates and job description.

Any opinions provided should be based on fact, and should also tell the whole story.   Any reference which creates a false impression about the employee can lead to legal action being taken by the employee's future employer.

References should not include irrelevant personal information. 

What should a job applicant do if they are unhappy with the employment reference?

If a job applicant is unhappy with the reference provided for them, they could:

  • Request a copy of any reference sent to a new employer.  The request should be made to the author of the reference; or

Claim damages in court, but they must be able to show that the information was misleading or inaccurate, and that they have suffered loss as a result (such as the withdrawal of a job offer).

For further information on employment references please contact Ashfords' Employment Team.

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