Job references - what can you expect

by Jennifer Renney-Butland on 2nd Oct 2018

There are a lot of myths out there about whether employers can give any kind of reference other than a simple “start date, finish date and job title”. We know by what we hear from our clients that a lot of employees and business owners believe this to be the case. Wrong. An employer can give a much more detailed reference, and in some cases are obliged to do so, for example in the financial services industry. The danger lies in ensuring that the reference is both fair and accurate, and not unlawfully discriminatory. For example it could be discriminatory to give a reference for a mother with child care responsibilities stating the employer would not re-employ because she was “inflexible” around her hours. Any new employer relying on and acting on any discriminatory reference also needs to be aware of its potential liabilities.

Acas have recently released new guidance on employment references, which provides some very useful information for businesses and employees.

Tom Neil, an Acas Senior Adviser, commented:

"The job market can be very competitive so it is vitally important for job applicants and employers to know what the legal requirements are around work references.”

The guidance covers matters such as:

  • what a reference must include
  • whether or not a reference must be provided
  • whether an employer can give a bad reference
  • problems with references
  • job offers and references