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A recent High Court decision provides useful guidance for businesses on how they should deal with the competing rights, legal obligations and interests of the parties involved when providing a reference.

The court held that a police force should not be permitted to send a further reference to the new employer of one of its former senior officers, advising the new employer of the officer’s extended absence record and of unproven disciplinary allegations outstanding against him at the time of his departure.

Although the court accepted that there was a strong public interest in providing full and frank disclosure, the officer had a legitimate expectation that outweighed the public interest in disclosure. In this case, the officer had relied on an undertaking given by a senior officer that only a standard reference would be provided.

Employment expert view

This case illustrates the difficulties that can arise in providing a reference. It is also a useful analysis of how someone should balance the various competing rights, legal obligations and interests of the parties that are involved.  Moreover where public sector employees are concerned there is an additional public law duty to provide accurate and fair references.

In the normal course of events, public duty law of honesty and integrity would usually mean that the Chief Constable had to send the regulatory body something more that the limited reference that was provided. In this case however, the Court were satisfied that the Force had provided a suitable reference, in an instance where providing a fuller reference could have been seen as unfair and a possible abuse of power.

Ask for advice on employee references

If you are at all unsure about what you should be putting into an employee reference and if there are aspects that you should be leaving out, please feel free to contact the Employment Team at Bray & Bray for advice.  It’s better to be safe than sorry with these matters and we are always happy to help!

For more information about the types of business employment issues we cover, visit our employment pages, or call our business employment solicitors:

Leicester call us on 0116 254 8871.

Hinckley call us on 01455 639 900.

Market Harborough call us on 01858 467 181.

Corby call us on 01536 851050.