Starting a new job can seem like a mountain of paperwork. One of the most important is one you won’t write. Your reference will come from your previous employer or even anyone who managed you in a work environment.
This means that it could be a reference from voluntary work or any work you have completed within the community. If you want to use a past employer, it’s crucial to know if they will provide one for you.
IYour employer does not legally have to give you a reference. This is completely up to them and company policy. However, for the vast majority of companies, it is common practice to give a reference to an employee. The exceptions being where it is written into your contract or where it is necessitated by a regulatory board. The Financial Conduct Authority are an example of this. They will require a reference to be written, to maintain the proof of qualified employees, capable of performing in the financial sector.
An employer might refuse to give you a reference. If this happens to you and you believe that it is because of your race, disability, sexual orientation, age, religion or belief or gender reassignment then you might be being discriminated. You will need to take the advice of an adviser who is experienced in this area. The Citizens Advice Bureau should be your first port of call. They can be contacted via email or you can walk in.
The reference is sent to your prospective employer and you will not see it. If you feel you need to see what was written in the reference, you can request a copy from the receiving employer. You can use the Data Protection Act to ask for all information pertaining to you that the company holds. The company will then process your request and send you the details they are allowed to, in accordance with the DPA. To find out more information on the information request, you can find it on the Information Commissioner’s website.
If your previous employer writes your reference, they are not allowed to provide misleading information. They should report on your punctuality, the roles you took in the company, the tasks you completed and any specific skills you have. They can report on the length of time you have been at the company. Unless you agree to extra information, the reference will not discuss your medical history or any information on criminal convictions.
The reference should be a factual guide and as such should not contain any deliberately wrong, misleading or inaccurate information. If you find out that this has happened, you should seek advice and possibly take some action against the employer.
When you find yourself in this situation, it is important that you immediately get advice and support from an adviser who is experienced in these situations. The Citizens Advice Bureau has been able to support people in your circumstances and is available to help you. You could also use an employment lawyer or find your local human resources expert.