When considering how to give a reference we look at employment law and how honest to be. This includes answering the question, ‘Can an employer refuse to give a reference?’
How to Give a Reference and Honesty
Employment Law UK
Legally Do I Have to Give a Reference?
When supplying a reference in respect of a current or former employee you owe a duty to that employee to take reasonable care to ensure that the reference is fair and accurate.
If it is not fair and accurate and the employee suffers loss as a result, s/he can sue you for damages on the grounds of negligent misstatement.
If you knowingly provide an inaccurate reference, which is either derogatory or contains false information and is designed to prevent the employee getting the job, the employee could have grounds to sue for defamation or malicious falsehood.
If that suit is successful, you could be liable for substantial damages. There is currently no upper limit to the damages available in High Court action.
How to Give References and How Honest to Be
You should respond to a general request for a reference by providing factual information. This includes issues such as dates of employment and capacity in which employed.
Specific questions may be asked about the person’s competence and character. Then you have a duty of care to both the (former) employee and to the prospective employer as per the legal obligations (above).
When providing a job reference give facts rather than subjective opinions. Always check the facts you are giving.
You can refer to the individual’s file and other relevant documents. This can include the termination report.
Where you do provide opinions, these should be based on facts that are sufficient to support them.
The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1972 was introduced, “To rehabilitate offenders who have not been reconvicted of any serious offence for a period of years and to penalise the unauthorised disclosure of their previous convictions.”
This means that an employer should not reveal their knowledge of an employee’s ‘spent’ conviction in the course of giving a job reference. The exception is in the case of certain ‘protected’ occupations which include accountancy, the legal profession, teaching, medicine and work that involves dealing with children.
(Main image from Solent University)