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Can an employer provide a negative reference?

In most cases, there is no legal obligation on an employer to provide a reference. Employers are increasingly wary about giving ex-employees reference, with most only giving bare ones, confirming dates of employment and title on leaving.

However, in a recent case, the employer gave a reference which included some negative comments about the ex-employee’s conduct and referred to internal investigations which had taken place during his employment. The employee sued them claiming the reference amounted to a negligent misstatement, based on sham investigations. The High Court dismissed his claim stating that a referee need only take reasonable care to be satisfied that the facts in the reference are accurate, and in this case there was a proper and legitimate basis for the opinion and that the resulting reference was fair and not misleading.

The case demonstrates the importance of giving fair and accurate references and highlights why so many employers reduce their risk by giving bare references.

If you wish to discuss this further, please contact us.

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