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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 50710
Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor
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My employer has given me a bad reference stating 1..lack

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My employer has given me a bad reference stating
1..lack of initiative 2..can't work without supervision 3..would not re-employ

Ref 1...I do not know why this has been said other than that the manager who wrote the reference and myself have never got on well together.
Ref 2...I have never had any sort of warning, verbal or written, or had any sort of "dressing down" and was often left on my own to deal with 15 clients and did so with no problems. Once again I do not know why this has been said.
Ref 3...This particular manager and I would never get on fully so I can only assume the statement is personal as the other manager said she is sorry to see me go and will miss me.

I gave my resignation as I had to move to another area for university, I had a position agreed subject to 3 references, I had two excellent references and this bad one which cost me the job as they said I could not work for them because of that reference.

During the various dialogue I was told by the originator of the reference that nothing bad was said about me but they would not provide a copy. I was later told again that nothing bad was said and that it was simply a tick box reference. I eventually recieved a copy from the employer who withdrew their job offer and the comments referred to above were in the comments box of the reference.

I have since got another job (part time as a carer) which, coincidentaly is with another office of the original company.

I am incensed at what I feel is very unfair treatment by the referee and which was made very much worse by the deliberate lies she told me about its content.

I cannot afford legal the legal expense of a solicitor, what can I do?


Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today.

Whilst there is no legal obligation on employers to provide a reference for past employees, if they choose to do so they will automatically owe them a duty to take reasonable care in the preparation of the reference. This basically requires the employer to be accurate in the contents of the reference and ensure it is based on facts, rather than personal opinion.


Certain difficulties may arise, depending on the circumstances that have led to a particular reference. For example, in the case of Bartholomew v London Borough of Hackney the court decided that the employer was not in breach of its duty of care to the employee by providing a reference which contained details of disciplinary proceedings which were pending when the employee left. An employer is under a duty of care to provide a reference that is true, accurate and fair and does not present facts so as to give a misleading impression overall. Therefore, if the employer had not included details of the disciplinary proceedings it would have failed in its duty to the prospective employer to provide a reference that was not unfair or misleading.


In the later case of Cox v Sun Alliance Life Ltd it was decided that an employer will be negligent in providing a reference that refers to an employee’s misconduct unless the employer had carried out an investigation and had reasonable grounds for believing that the misconduct had taken place.


If some of the above conditions are met, the employer is unlikely to be acting unlawfully or negligently and can provide the reference in question. However, if it is obvious that incorrect facts have been relied on, the contents are false or evidently misleading, there may be a potential case for negligence against the employer and this matter could be taken further by seeking compensation due to negligence in the civil courts. If the employer refuses to deal with this directly with you then unfortunately you cannot force them to do anything or seek compensation without going to court.


I am sorry but i dont really understand what you are saying


how do i come back tomorrow after i have digested it


there was no misconduct and no indication of any worry about my standard of work

Ben Jones :

you can simply save the link to this page and come back to it any time, i would be happy to answer any questions you may have




I am seeking advice on what course is open to me....for example will acas assist and if so how or will an employment tribunal be feasible and if so how do i initiate it. my interpretation of what you say is that my only course of action is to claim via civil court....what relevance is there that there was absolutely no previous warning that this person was not satisfied with my work.

Ben Jones :

ACAS will not necessarily be able to help with this. Their services are only free if this matter was to go to a tribunal but this is not the case here because you cannot make such a claim in the employment tribunal. It is not possible to challenge a reference in the employment and you can only make a claim for negligence in the county court. So whilst you can use them for mediation they will charge for this service.


An employer does not have to give prior warning of issues before they mention them in a reference but the key is still whether the contents of the reference were truthful as that is all that is required by the employer


Ben Sorry to continue being a "thicky" but does the fact that there is only this one manager who wrote this (the other manager completely supports me) and that I regularly supervised and cared for 15 clients at a time constitute sufficient for me to claim this person made an incorrect statement on my reference? (initiative / constant requirement for supervision)

Ben Jones :

No problem, I am here to clarify any queries you have. I cannot comment whether the contents of the reference are truthful and whether you actually have a case to take further. I obviously do not know the facts and whether the reference conveys the truth or not. You have to decide that because you are the only one that knows if this is the case. However, if the employer cannot provide evidence to back up the reference and even more so, if there is evidence to show that the reference was not correct, then that could be potentially negligent


Ben Thankyou, so essentially i need to query my ex employer and request that they justify that part of the reference? the rest of it being fine.

Ben Jones :

yes that is correct, you should first try and resolve this directly with the employer. Tell them what you disagree with and ask them to change it. You may even state that you believe their comments are negligent. Legal action should always be seen as a last resort

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