Q&As

Does an employer have to give a reference for a former employee?

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Published on LexisPSL on 26/11/2013

The following Employment Q&A provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Does an employer have to give a reference for a former employee?
  • General position
  • Exceptions
  • Duty to be fair, truthful and accurate
  • Discriminatory references
  • Minimising the risks

The answer to this question depends on the sector in which the employer operates, and whether references are generally given in respect of former employees.

General position

An employer is under no general duty to provide a reference for a former (or current) employee. However:

  1. this is subject to certain exceptions

  2. if the employer chooses to provide a reference, he owes a duty of care to both the former employee and the recipient

Exceptions

Even though there is no general duty to provide a reference, the employer should consider:

  1. whether he is under a contractual obligation to provide a reference. This may be express (eg set out in the employment contract) or implied (on the basis that the employer has always given a reference for former employees)

  2. whether where there is any specific statutory obligation to provide a reference in the employer's sector, eg:

    1. the financial sector—authorised firms are required to provide a reference in respect of a former employee who is being considered for appointment to an 'FCA-controlled function'

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