Over the last number of years, many employers have changed the way in which they deal with requests for references. Most employers will simply no longer accept the risk of being held liable, either to the former employee or the prospective employer, for any statements made in references or for any damages as a result of a refusal to provide a reference. As a result, the practice of providing “statements of employment”, as opposed to detailed references, is now relatively widespread and is the generally accepted practise in most industries.
Furthermore, there are no rules in relation to what level of information must be included in a statement of employment and an employer is generally not required by law to insert the reason for leaving in either a statement of employment or a reference (although please refer to previous article in relation to regulated roles). In the UK case of Bartholomew v Hackney London Borough v Another, the Court of Appeal held that it is not necessary that a reference in every case be full and comprehensive. However, as outlined in our previous article, there may be some limited cases where an employee may claim they are entitled to, or an employer is obliged to provide, a more detailed reference.
It would be unusual to include a reason for leaving in a statement of employment as the whole point of using a statement of employment is to provide generic information.
If an organisation does propose to provide statements of employment as opposed to references, this should be enshrined as a corporate policy. Difficulties will arise if an employer offers references to some employees whilst not to others. Former-employees should be treated consistently and standard wording should be used and only departed from in exceptional circumstances.
This article first appeared as part of Legal-Island’s employment law update service. Find out more: www.legal-island.ie
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