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References – to give, or not to give 

Whether you’re an employer or employee it’s a well-known fact that the majority of employers will want at least one reference with any job application.  Clare Thomas, Employment law specialist at Bowcock and Pursaill explains what your rights are when it comes to references. 

Are references mandatory? 

It’s mandatory for an employer to give a reference if it’s part of your contractual agreement. For example, if it’s part of an employment contract, settlement agreement, or it has been otherwise agreed between employer and employee. A reference is also mandatory if the employee’s role is regulated by someone like the Financial Conduct Authority. 

Apart from those circumstances an employer is within its rights to refuse.  

But what should an employer consider when writing a reference? 

The reference should be accurate and truthful. If it contains unflattering information, it shouldn’t be malicious. If an employee suspects they haven’t gained a job because of a malicious or inaccurate reference, they can make an application to the Court. The new employer could have a claim too if your reference led them to have a wrong impression of the employee.  

What is an alternative to a character reference? 

Some employers simply choose to provide a reference recording the dates of the employment and the job title. If employers have this policy, or indeed a policy not to provide references, this should be consistently held and should be made clear in any response to a request for a reference.  

The Acas webpage “Providing a job reference” is helpful for both employers and employees. Employers should be sure to seek legal advice if they don’t want an ex-employee to see a reference. 

For help and advice on where you stand when it comes to references our employment law specialist Clare Thomas can help clear up any uncertainty. Get in touch with her by calling on 01782 200500 or email 

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