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Can I refuse to give a reference?
Yes – there is no obligation to give a reference at all but any reference you do give must be factual.
Can I give a bad reference?
As long as it is factual and backed up by evidence then yes, you can give a “bad” reference. Remember though that if you give a “bad” reference without foundation your employee may be able to seek compensation from you in the event an offer of employment is withdrawn as a result of your reference. Equally if you don’t mention something relevant to a new employer who then suffers a loss of some sort as a result of your omission, the new employer can seek compensation.
What do I say in a telephone reference?
If you can avoid giving a telephone reference, do so not least because you don’t know if you are being recorded. Ask the other party to put their request for a reference in writing.
What do I say in a reference if an employee resigns because of a disciplinary process?
A reference has to be factual and you need to be able to back up any statements you make with evidence. You need to find a balance between informing the new employer about any disciplinary proceedings that might affect the employee’s suitability to be employed by them, and preventing the employee from finding new employment because of what you have said in a reference.