Acas launches new advice on job references

  • Workplace experts, Acas, have published new guidance to help employers and employees know the rules around employment references.
    A recent survey found that nearly half of employers want job applicants who have relevant work experience.
    Acas Senior Adviser, Tom Neil, said:

“The job market can be very competitive so it is vitally important for job applicants and employers to know what the legal requirements are around work references.
“We’ve based our advice around the typical questions that we receive on our helpline about job references.
“Acas’ new advice has information on what to include in work references, when they are needed and how to resolve problems with references.”

Typical questions the Acas helpline receives about job references:

  • Can an employer refuse to give a reference?
  • How can I obtain a copy of the reference my previous employer has supplied?
  • If a reference is incorrect what can I do about it?
  • Can my employer include absence rates relating to sickness in a reference?
  • Can an employer put negative things in a reference?

Acas’ employment references advice includes top tips such as:

  • Employers can usually choose whether or not to give a reference;
  • Employers must only seek a reference from a job applicant’s current employers with their permission;
  • If a conditional job offer is made then it can be withdrawn if the job applicant doesn’t meet satisfactory references. Employees should consider waiting until they get an unconditional job offer before handing in their notice in their current job;
  • Potential employers should remember a referee may not provide a reference or might inaccurately suggest the applicant is suitable. In these circumstances, it may help to discuss any concerns with the job applicant directly first; and
  • Job applicants who are unhappy with a reference can ask for a copy that was sent to their new employers and may be able to claim damages in court if they can prove it was misleading or inaccurate and resulted in the withdrawal of their job offer.

The full guidance is available at


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