References for Ex-Employees’
All too often I get asked by my clients if they have an obligation to provide references for ex-employees’. Generally, many are unsure of their obligation & uncertain what content should be provided for fear of a potential claim against them.
Employees come and go, some we’re glad about and others we’re not so, but the fact is that for the majority of these there is likely to be an employee reference request land on your doorstep or inbox.
So, do you have to complete references for ex-employees’ and what happens if you don’t?
In short, no you don’t have to provide references for ex-employees’, (there are some exceptions to this such as the Care Sector & Financial Services) unless of course your internal policies state that you must and so if you don’t complete them the world isn’t going to stop turning!
The best advice I can give is to ensure the reference is factual, state the employee’s position, start & end dates and reason for leaving, i.e. resignation, dismissal, there’s no need to enter any other information.
To reduce any chance of a misleading, inaccurate or untruthful reference being created by a manager, it would be sensible to ensure this is covered off in your internal policy and that managers are trained. An ex-employee can sue you for damages if they fail to secure a role because of an incorrect reference provided by someone on behalf of your Company.
Of course, employers such as yourselves have a legal obligation to ensure that any personal data and specifically ‘sensitive personal data’ is processed in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998.
- Have you got permission from the ex-employee to provide a reference?
- You may have this in their personnel file (which you would keep for as long as is reasonably necessary).
- If you are unsure or cannot evidence this then ask the company requesting the reference to provide this to you.
- All references should be marked as ‘confidential, for the attention of the addressee only’.
- Ensure internal policies allow only authorised persons to provide a reference.
Another concern my clients have is about the rights of an ex-employee being able to see the reference which has been provided by the Company. There is no automatic right, it would require your consent (in the majority of cases).
- Don’t feel obliged
- Ensure you have the person’s consent
- Implement a policy/procedure to minimise risk to the business
- Train managers
- Be factual and not opinionated