A new job is an exciting time. You have successfully navigated the application forms, the job interview has been a success and you have been made an offer of employment.
Usually, as a condition of your offer, your new employer will ask for a reference from previous employers. If you have a good relationship with your previous employer, you could view this as one of the easier stages of the application. However, if you have not left on the best terms this may be a cause of worry.
Equally, navigating a reference request as an employer can be trickier than it first appears; do I have to provide one? What should it say? How much detail and opinion should I give?
ACAS has issued new guidance in order to clarify, for both employers and employees, what exactly is required when providing an employment reference and what it considers best practice.
Are employers required to provide references?
ACAS confirm that a previous employer, unless they are in certain regulated industries, are not by law required to give a reference.
Therefore, an employer can decide if they wish to provide a reference and how much information to include. This could amount to a few basic facts about the previous employment.
ACAS considers it good practice that an employer has a structure and policy in place to handle employment references, including details about what information they provide.
What can be included?
An employment reference can include:
* Employment dates and job descriptions
* Answers to specific questions
* Details about skills and abilities
* Details about suitability in relation to the role
The most important thing an employer should bear in mind when providing a reference is that must be a true, accurate and fair reflection of the job applicant and that it does not give a misleading impression.
If an employer provides references that are anything but this, they may be liable for discrimination, defamation or negligent misstatement.
ACAS advise that whilst an employer can choose to give a bad reference, it must ensure they avoid giving comments not supported by facts or that are wholly subjective.
How can an employment reference affect a job offer?
A bad reference, or a previous employer electing not to provide a reference, can have an adverse effect on an offer of employment. Usually, if a new employer has asked for an employment reference along with their job offer, then the offer is conditional on the reference being provided.
In such circumstances, ACAS recommend a practical approach. A potential employer may wish to discuss the reference with the new employee and may wish to offer a job on a probationary period.
For further information, please visit the ACAS website: http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=5072