Many thanks for your patience. First of all it is certainly not illegal to give a bad reference so that advice is wrong. An employer is entirely free to give a bad reference as long as the contents of the reference are factually correct. So a bad reference cannot be given only if the contents of the reference are false, but if they reflect reality, then it is perfectly legal to give a bad reference.
You can try and ask for a copy of the reference as you have the right to do so under the GDPR – the new data protection law. So if you know that a reference has been issued you can contact the party that has issued it or the one that has received it and advise them that you are asking for a copy of it under a subject access request in accordance with data protection rules.
If it is obvious that incorrect facts have been relied on or the contents are false or misleading, the employee could consider taking the matter further.
There are various options available for taking this further all of which would be pursued in the civil courts and would generally seek compensation:
· Defamation – if the reference tends to lower the subject’s reputation in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally. However, such claims are rather complex and expensive and are not usually the best option
· Malicious falsehood - if the reference contains untrue words that were published maliciously, so a situation where the employer knew the contents were untrue and published them anyway
· Negligent misstatement – simple negligence where the employer has failed to do their homework and has included inaccurate facts without checking their validity first.
Does this answer your query?