Introduction to this document

Reference request

Always take up references, regardless of how “perfect” for the job a prospective employee appears to be. It’s not unknown for candidates to lie on application forms or at interview or to have overstated their abilities. Use our reference request to seek a reference from a previous employer.

For future reference

Always ensure you seek at least two written references, one of which should be from a previous employer, preferably their current or most recent employer. If this is the new employee’s first job, ask for a reference from their school, college or university. Our Reference Request will help you seek a reference from a previous employer. With other referees, simply ask them to give their opinion as to the prospective employee’s personality, character and suitability for the post including, in particular, their honesty, integrity and reliability (see our Character Reference Questionnaire). Be aware of the relative value of personal references. They may be of little use if they are given by a family friend of the employee. Ensure that the employee does not provide details of either a relative or one of their contemporaries as a referee. You might later find that the employee actually wrote his or her own reference!

Data protection

Employees and job applicants have the right of access to information held about them under the UK GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018 by making a data subject access request. However, there is an exemption that allows you to refuse to disclose a confidential employment reference to an employee or job applicant if they request to see it. You do not therefore have to provide access to the reference, but you can still choose to do so. If you do, be careful not to disclose information about a third party, such as the referee, unless either they’ve consented to the disclosure or it’s reasonable to disclose the reference without their consent. You may decide to disclose an edited version of the reference, e.g. with the referee's identity deleted or containing the factual information (such as employment dates and job duties) but with their personal opinions withheld.