These Q&As deal with the legal and practical issues that employers will encounter when supplying and checking references for former, current and prospective employees, with a particular emphasis on providing references.

There is no detailed legislation specifically designed to deal with the general provision of references. However, some legislation many have an impact on different aspects and a list of the relevant Acts is given at the end of these Q&As (see Q ‘Legislation’).

Employers are not under an obligation to check a job applicant’s references or provide an existing or ex-employee with a reference. Most employers do follow good practice, however, and contact an applicant’s referees to obtain objective information on the applicant’s suitability for a role.

What should an employer consider before supplying a reference?

What duty of care does an employer owe to the employee for whom it is writing a reference?

What duty of care does an employer owe those who may rely on the reference?

Can suspected gross misconduct be omitted from a reference?

Can an employer put a liability disclaimer on a reference?

How do the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998 apply to providing a reference?

Can employers refuse to provide references for employees?

Can employees use discrimination law to challenge an employer’s decision not to provide references?

Can employers provide ‘bare minimum’ references?

How should employers deal with a reference request for an employee engaged in a discrimination dispute with the employer?

How should employers deal with reference requests that ask about sickness absence for employees who have taken extended sick leave?

Can employer liability include comments about an employee outside the context of a reference?

What should employers be aware of when checking references?

What issues arise when making job offers conditional on satisfactory references?

Future developments


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