Reference Requests

13 May 2015

There is generally no legal obligation for an employer to provide a reference for an employee or former employee. However, there are some exceptions.

For instance, you are not permitted to refuse to provide a reference when:

  • The reason relates to one of the nine protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. Refusal for such a reason could be an act of discrimination.
  • There is a potential claim for victimisation. For example, when the individual concerned has previously brought discrimination proceedings or made an allegation of discrimination against the business.
  • The employment is in the financial services sector and employees are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) or the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA). In order to carry out certain functions (such as being a financial advisor) within this sector, individuals must be certified as being ‘fit and proper’, taking a range of criteria into account – including honesty, capability and competence. A reference from an employer in this sector must include all relevant information of which the employer is aware.
  • Your business has entered into a compromise or settlement agreement which includes a term stating that the business will, if requested, provide a reference in an agreed form. It is important that the agreed wording and format is adhered to, to avoid a potential breach of contract claim.

Ensuring you have a clear policy which prescribes the circumstances in which references are given will assist you in defending any such allegations.

When a corporate reference is provided on behalf of your business, the business will be legally responsible for the content. It is therefore essential that any information provided is true, accurate and fair. A comprehensive reference runs the risk of exposing your business to a myriad of potential claims, including discrimination, defamation, malicious falsehood and negligent misstatement. It is therefore safer to simply provide brief factual details of the employee’s start and finish date, the roles performed and nothing more – although it is important to accompany this with a statement that it is company policy to only provide factual details, otherwise your reticence may be taken as a negative reflection on the employee.

We suggest that the reduced risks make a short basic reference by far the safest and least risky option. We would be happy to provide a free, no obligation template upon request.


  • Martin Kaye

    Martin Kaye have provided advice in some highly complex HR matters and they continue to provide our day to day HR advice through their "ALPHA" HR scheme. They offer a very commercial and pragmatic approach and we have always been impressed by the level of service. The members of staff are approachable and easy to deal with.

    Eurofilms Extrusion Ltd

  • Martin Kaye

    Martin Kaye have provided us with employment and HR advice for several years and we have been very pleased with the level of service and quality of advice provided. We have no hesitation in recommending the team to any organisation which wishes to manage its employment related enquiries.

    D Wauchope, Company Secretary - McPhillips (Wellington) Ltd

  • Martin Kaye

    As a large employer of cleaning personnel, we require expert and prompt employment related advice. Martin Kaye's "ALPHA" service provides this in a clear and robust manner. We have been extremely impressed with the service and would thoroughly recommend them to any employer requiring expert HR & employment support.

    J Conry, Chairman - JPC Cleaning

  • Martin Kaye

    It is important for us to create a close relationship with our advisors. Martin Kaye's "ALPHA" HR service is excellent. It enables us to work closely with our lawyers particularly in the complex area of employment law.

    Johnny Hobeika, Operations Manager - Sanita (UK) Ltd

  • Martin Kaye

    ALPHA is an excellent, reliable, professional service which is an integrated part of our business that we could not do without.  This service is part of our structure and provides staff and business with the professional HR Support it requires - Invaluable

    Wendy Cox - Genvolt

Martin Kaye are rated 4 out of 5 based on 20 testimonials.