Back
Effective 1 June, we have a new address: 34 Imperial Square, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 1QZ
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)
Partner
View profile
Jenny Hawrot
Related services
Share this article
Resources to help

Related articles

A new gateway for pay equality

Employment & business immigration

A recent case has paved the way for employers to be more transparent in identifying equal work and pay. For the first time, a tribunal has ordered a company to…

Jenny Hawrot LLB (Hons)
Partner

Major Supreme Court ruling finds paid holiday for part-year workers cannot be pro-rated

Employment & business immigration

On 20 July 2022, the Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeal’s earlier decision in Harpur Trust v Brazel that part-year workers should not have their paid holiday pro-rated. Here,…

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

“It’s too hot to work” - or is it?

Employment & business immigration

If this is the cry you are hearing from your staff during the current heatwave, you may be interested to know that although health and safety laws say that working…

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