Do you reference-check all your staff?

When you receive references, how much attention do you pay towards then?

Do you think they’re worth the paper they are written on?

In recent months, I’ve learned how important references can be. The written and spoken can be very different. As an employer you have to be so careful that bitterness and opinion doesn’t get mixed up with fact. This can be very hard if you’ve faced a professional injustice by a past member of staff.

It can be difficult voicing an opinion in the hope it will only be taken in the best, most positive way. You don’t want to seem like a bitter past employer, but you may want to protect future employers from a ‘bad apple’, and from the same bad experiences you had. However, does this prevent the ‘bad apple’ becoming ripe and good? Everyone deserves a second chance right?

So do you conform, confirm dates or point blank refuse? What will be will be!

But as employers, where do we stand legally? We looked online for references about references! –

As quoted on Most people’s CVs will end with the ‘References are available on request’ line, but have you ever thought about how important references are? To some employers they are an essential part of the recruitment process, and can even be the deciding factor in who gets the job. But should this be the case? Do references give an accurate depiction of a person’s capabilities, or are they open to misuse by lazy or vindictive ex-employers? We spoke with two people of opposing views to open up the debate on whether a reference is important. Let us know your thoughts.

Linda Jodrell is HR Director at Citation, a provider of employment law, HR and health and safety solutions. She’s had plenty of experience dealing with references and views them as a vital part of the recruitment process.

“References are an incredibly important factor of recruitment for one main reason; they validate (or not) what the candidate has put on their CV and told you during selection. However, having said this, in my experience you get less insight from references than you used to.

“It used to be that a reference was brutally honest but I think employment legislation has made many employers uncertain about what they can and cannot say. This has resulted in many cases of a standard reference confirming the employee was employed and nothing more.

“The legislation actually means that all references must be fair and accurate. Contrary to what a lot of people think, an employer can give a bad reference and include details if an employee was sacked, as long as there is evidence to back up the statement, such as warning letters or appraisal notes.

I”n my experience, references are used as a supplement to an interview, and only come to the forefront if they contradict what the candidate says at the interview.

“Some arguments against references are based around the myth that if a person left a company in less-than-ideal circumstances, their reference will be deliberately bad to try and sabotage future employment. But because of the legislation mentioned earlier, references have to be fair and accurate, otherwise the employee could claim for damages in court.”

We also asked a law firm to advice us on the legalities of referencing. They said:

An employer has no legal obligation to provide an employee or former employee with a reference. The exceptions are the regulated industries, eg. financial services. However, employers have a duty to ensure the reference is both truthful and reasonable.

We found this website very helpful, if you’re after further information on the topic.