Answer: An employer is not legally obliged to provide a reference to an employee who has left employment. A reference from a previous employer holds significant importance and can often be a reliant factor in securing a new job position. An employer who decides to offer a reference owes a duty of care not only to the employee but also to the new employer to provide accurate and fair information about the employee in question. A reference from an employee must be reasonable and fair in all circumstances.

It is normally in the best interests of an employee to be given a reference, to honour their years in service and their input in the company. With-holding a reference (without reason to) can be detrimental to any employee (depending on the requirements of their prospective company) as it can impede their chances of progressing to secure new employment. Should an employer not wish to elaborate within a reference (for example, if an employee’s performance was poor) they should consider furnishing a statement of employment, to include the date of commencement, role and responsibilities and any strengths (such as punctuality, teamwork, organisational skills etc) the employee possessed.