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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 50196
Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor
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Hello, I was asked from an ex-coleague to provide a reference

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I was asked from an ex-coleague to provide a reference for him. At the time I did this for him I was unaware that he was dismissed for disciplinary reasons, as I was away from work for a few months. My ex-colleague did not get the job, but the company I work for seems to find out about the case. General Medical Council seems to be aware as well(this is the regulating body for my occupation). Am I in some sort of legal trouble?


Ben Jones : Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. Has any formal action been take against you and what did you say in the reference?
Customer: Hello,
Customer: My colleague will be undergoing an investigation by the GMC for professional negligence and I will be probaby called at a hearing due to the positive reference that I have provided for him after he was dismissed from the job. i
Customer: I wasn't formally informed about the case at the time when I was off but I heard rumours about it and also has seen that colleague 2-3 times in unformal and friendly manner. I have worked with him only for a month before I go off and we weren't actually covering same shifts, so I wasn't working alongside with him during that time. The local medical committee has adviced me that I could go into a great trouble because of this as I have provided a reference for someone who I hasn't worked with alongside and I didn't made the effort to check the reason for dismissal before I give a reference , although I was away for few months.
Customer: I would appreciate your advice. Thank you
Customer: In the reference I have written that he has more than 30 years of experience and this gives him a good clinical judgement and diagnostic skills. Also that he is a team worker and will make a great asset to the company. There was a question if there were any disciplinary measures taken against him and I answered "No" because I wasn't formally informed about any of those actions.
Ben Jones :

Hi, sorry I was offline by the time you had replied and have been in tribunal most of today.


There are two separate issues here – one is where you were able to provide a reference internally, based on your employer’s policies and procedures. The other is the actual contents of the reference.


If this was a personal reference, not sent from the employer and if you did not use company letterhead or otherwise make it appear that this was an official company reference, then you should not be too concerned about internal policies and what you may have breached. However, if you made this out to be an official company reference, then you need to ensure you had the authority to do so, otherwise this could be an internal misconduct issue for breaching rules/procedures.


In terms of the contents of the reference, then it would depend on what your knowledge at the time was and whether you negligently or knowingly provided false information. This is very much a factual issue that depends on the circumstances and on what you knew about the person you were discussing. So in your case you did not know that they were subject to disciplinary action and it would be difficult to argue that you knowingly provided false information. However, the issue then is whether this was done negligently. For example, should a reasonable person in your position known the true information. This could be if you had the resources to check this and should have done so before making a statement to confirm your comments. This would vary from one case to another so it depends on what was available to you, what checks you could have made and so on.


So at this stage, it is just an investigation and no guarantee you will be facing any formal charges of any kind. It depends on whether they can show you knowingly or negligently provided the false information but you have a defence you can use and need to stick to your story and maintain your innocence, highlighting that you were never informed about the disciplinary action in question.

Customer: Thank you very much for your answer.
Customer: I just have one more question. Is it reasonable to send an explanation email to the new employer about the situation and that I wasn't aware of the actions taken towards my colleague at the time of providing the reference? I actually didn't provide the reference on a headed paper and it was a personal rather than company one.
Ben Jones :

Yes you may do so but that won't automatically remove the original offence, if one has occurred. Also it won't stop the GMC's involvement, but no real harm in trying to explain the situation as it happened.

Customer: Thank you
Ben Jones :

You are welcome, all the best

Customer: I can't leave you a feedback, for some reason it says that you haven't finished your answer and I need to wait for you. Can you check , please, and see if you have to do anything so I can rate you.
Ben Jones :

We have an ongoing bug unfortunately which could prevent you from leaving feedback so you can just type it here instead and we can process that manually, many thanks

Customer: Ok. I'm rating you with an "excellent service".
Customer: thank you again
Ben Jones :

Many thanks, XXXXX XXXXX best

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