Is an employer obliged to supply a reference?

Most employers are not obliged to provide a reference about an employee or ex-employee, whether the request for a reference comes from the employee, a prospective employer or any other third party such as a bank or landlord. Some companies have set policies on giving references to include only basic information about the employee's length of service and position held.

An employer may have an obligation to provide a reference for a former employee if it has agreed to do so under the terms of a settlement agreement. In these circumstances, specific wording to be included in the reference is sometimes agreed between the parties.

Employers that are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority have a duty to provide a reference relating to a current or former employee where the new role involves performance of a controlled function, senior management function or certification function. The reference must include all information relevant to assessing whether or not the individual is fit and proper to perform the role.