Produced by Tolley in association with Hannah Freeman at Old Square Chambers

The following Employment Tax guidance note Produced by Tolley in association with Hannah Freeman at Old Square Chambers provides comprehensive and up to date tax information covering:

  • References
  • Duty not to discriminate
  • References following gender reassignment
  • Duty to be fair, truthful and accurate
  • Brief, factual references
  • Inaccurate or negligent references
  • Settlement agreements


There is generally no contractual duty on an employer to provide a reference (in the absence of an express agreement to do so in a contract). However, if an employer does provide a reference for an employee or former employee, it should be fair, truthful and accurate.

It is advisable for employers to have a formal policy to help them handle reference requests fairly and consistently. The policy should make clear who in the organisation can provide references and in what circumstances. A formal policy, providing guidance to employees who are asked to write references, can help to protect employers from the inference that a reference was given, or not given, for discriminatory reasons (or as an act of harassment or victimisation). However, it is important to note that if an employer has such a policy but fails to follow it, negative inferences could well be drawn.

Duty not to discriminate

There is an important exception to the freedom of an employer to refuse to provide a reference. A worker can bring an employment tribunal claim under the Equality Act 2010 for a discriminatory refusal to provide a reference if the reason for the refusal is where an employer ref

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