References – a few important pointers…

Article written by Rachel Downer  – BA (Hons), LLM, Chartered FCIPD


Why are employment references so short and unhelpful?  There is a common view that if an employer writes a negative reference, then their ex-employee can take legal action against them.  There is also concern that a very positive reference about a mediocre employee could lead to the future employer taking legal action for being misled!  In actual fact it is very difficult for an ex-employee to take legal action against an employer, and it is only really successful if the employee can show that the reference is inaccurate and the employer knew that to be so.  For libel claims they need to show that there was a malicious intention in the inaccuracies.

The main points to be aware of when requested to provide a reference are:

And if you are seeking to hire someone new, how do you find out more information?  It is always worth writing to the past employer and requesting a reference.  You could include a series of questions or a rating scale. to make it easier for them  While the ex-employer is not obliged  to provide any information, they sometimes do choose to do so.

Often ex-employers are more willing to provide details over the phone – so it is worth giving them a call to find out more.  However, phone references still need to be true accurate and fair.  Ultimately it has to be your decision.  What you should aim to do is have a structured and robust recruitment process and then use the probationary period to assess the new employee’s suitability for the role, rather than relying on someone else’s opinion.

Careerz Limited, based in Canterbury, offer specialist recruitment services across Kent, London and the South East.

For further information, please call John Adams on 01227 656 888 or or 0208 0990 888 or visit

Article written by Rachel Downer

Image courtesy of Ambro /

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