The dos and don'ts of answering references

Posted by Rachael Blundell on 11-Feb-2016 13:00:00
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No one likes the tedious administrative task of answering reference requests but get it wrong and the worst case scenario is that your ex-employee can sue you for libel. You can also be sued by the employer or the applicant if you provide a negligent reference.

Follow our tips below to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.

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  • Check whether your company has a reference policy in place. Most organisations these days advise to only confirm dates so you don’t necessarily need to fill out all of the form, saving you time!
  • Check whether you're the right person to answer the reference. Some company polices state that the reference should come from HR only in which case you can pass the request on to them, or perhaps the candidate was employed by an agency therefore you can pass it on to them instead.
  • Retain the reference you have written. You never know if you might be asked for it again.
  • Make sure that all references are answered in the same way.
  • Ensure you provide valid reasons for refusal to give a reference. If you are not sure it’s always best to check with HR.

You may like to read: Benefits of hiring a temp



  • Discriminate based on personal opinion of the candidate, treat all references fairly and without prejudice.
  • Comment on attendance or performance related to disability as this can also be seen as discrimination and is illegal under the Equality Act.
  • Share personal data, such as reasons for sickness absence, without express permission of the individual as this is unlawful under the Data Protection Act.
  • Forget to mark the reference as private and confidential.
  • Just guess the dates of employment; check with HR. 

Remember: You are liable for the reference you provide.




Topics: Recruitment

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