How to write a Reference

The value of references these days may be questionable, with many employers now opting for nothing more than a factual statement avoiding any qualitative opinion.  If you are asked to write a reference for a former employee, what can, and can’t, you say?

This is a question which was recently considered by the High Court in London where the Claimant, an independent Financial Advisor (‘IFA’) previously employed by Co-operative Financial Solutions, sought damages for negligent misstatement from his former employer’s out-sourced ‘compliance department’.

After concerns were raised with some of the advice given by the Claimant, restrictions were placed on his activities by the Respondent.   The Claimant subsequently breached these restrictions – seemingly inadvertently. When a further breach occurred, the Respondent considered this to be a repeated breach and the Claimant’s authorisation to act as an IFA was terminated.

The Claimant was unable to secure work as an IFA and suspected the Respondent’s ‘reference’ may be to blame.  It transpired that their reference included negative statements and opinions. 

The Court held that references can include frank and honest views where the writer has taken reasonable care as to the factual content of the reference and any opinion expressed within it. 

That said, if you can’t say anything nice…  

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