Back
We continue to provide our legal services through the COVID-19 pandemic. Please visit our COVID-19 Hub for legal insights, or contact us directly.
Get in Touch Menu

Classic employment traps – references

09 July 2007

References are a common employment trap for employers. The problems that arise tend to be high on the ‘irritation’ scale .. and sometimes disproportionately expensive.

Very often, the problem will stem from one simple act: the employer has responded in the form of a questionnaire sent by the new employer. These questionnaires are often constructed in such a way as to require you to answer questions you would rather not answer (sometimes it is better to avoid answering questions such as ‘was this person easy to work with?’ or ‘would you employ this person again?’).

Many job offers are made ‘subject to references’. An unfavourable reference could result in some adverse consequence in the new job or in the individual not getting the job at all. In such circumstances the ‘new’ employer’ will often disclose the unfavourable reference to the ‘failed’ employee in order to get himself off the hook.

If the by-now disgruntled employee could, in the worst circumstances, show that the reference is maliciously false, he could sue: what is more likely is that he will come back and wrangle with the former employer over the reference, and such wrangling is irritating and expensive.

There is no common law right to a reference. There are some situations, particularly where there has been some form of statutorily recognised discrimination, where an employer would be wise to give a reference for a departing employee. And while an employee has no legal right, in some cases refusal to provide a reference has amounted to harassment.

Rule 1 is never answer questionnaires. Rule 2 is if you wish to give a reference, it has to be honest and accurate. If you give information that proves to be false or inaccurate, and a new employer relies on it, you could potentially, be sued.

As always, if you need commercial and pragmatic legal advice, we’re here to help so please get in touch.

Contact us

Contact
Jenny Hawrot LLB (Hons)
Senior associate, solicitor
View profile
Jenny Hawrot
Related services
Share this article
Resources to help

Related articles

IR35 and the off-payroll working rules

Employment & business immigration

IR35: The (delayed) new off-payroll working rules apply from 6 April 2021 Traditionally, contractors like being self-employed because they pay reduced National Insurance contributions, and are able to set various…

Matthew Clayton MA LLM (Cantab), CIPP/E
Partner

Asda – the Supreme Court’s landmark decision on ‘common terms’

Employment & business immigration

The Supreme Court has made a unanimous landmark decision that (mostly female) shop workers at Asda supermarkets can be compared to the (mostly male) warehouse workers, ruling that they are…

Jenny Hawrot LLB (Hons)
Senior associate, solicitor

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme guidance & updates

Employment & business immigration

Employment lawyers Matthew Clayton and Jenny Hawrot summarise the latest developments on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to emerge. Thursday 18 March 2021 From 1 April 2021, clinically vulnerable people in…

Matthew Clayton MA LLM (Cantab), CIPP/E
Partner
Contact us