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Negligent job references

BY Fiona McBeath
Employment Law & HR
BG Purple

There is rarely an obligation on an employer to provide a job reference, but where one is provided, the employer needs to take care that any reference provided is accurate.

The Court of Appeal has again examined this area of law.  

In Jackson v Liverpool City Council, Mr Jackson left the employment of Liverpool CC and took up employment with another Council.  He left with good references.  Following an internal move within his new employer, a second set of references was requested, one of which was from his former employer, Liverpool CC.  This reference mentioned that there had been issues with Mr Jackson's record keeping.  The reference made it clear that no investigation had been undertaken at the time of his resignation.  Mr Jackson failed to get the job and was then unemployed for a year.  

The Court noted that, notwithstanding the fact that a good reference had previously been provided, the wording of the reference itself was accurate and as such Mr Jackson's action against his former employer failed.  

The lesson for Mr Jackson, and other employees, is to try and agree a reference before you leave employment.  For employers, to avoid such actions, the lesson is, once a reference has been agreed, absent any unforeseen change in circumstances, stick to what has been agreed or previously stated.  

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