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Want to stay on the right side of the law? We support businesses and public authorities and help them to promote good practice.

Job references

What you need to know


Only seek references about job applicants from current or former employers when you have good reasons for doing so, i.e. reasons that are objectively justifiable.

Should I seek references from current or former employers?

It is generally permissible to seek references about job applicants. However, to seek and rely on references only from applicants’ current or former employers is likely to cause disadvantage for persons who have been out of conventional employment for a long time, who have intermittent employment records, or who have not yet developed an extensive employment record in the local economy.

A range of people can be disadvantaged in this way, such as some disabled persons, some women with dependants, recently arrived migrant workers and young workers. Therefore, seeking and relying only on references from current or former employers could potentially give rise to disability discrimination and indirect sex, race and age discrimination. For this reason, a policy of seeking references only from current or former employers should be objectively justified.


Are there other sources for references?

Yes. It’s good practice to also accept references from other persons who know the applicants in a non-occupational context and who can provide information that is relevant to the job selection criteria, and which may help you to assess the applicants against those criteria.

What else can I do?

Apply your policy of seeking references consistently to all applicants, without discrimination.

When asking for references:
  • provide the referees with the job descriptions and personnel specifications relevant to the jobs in question, and
  • ask specific questions which seek to obtain information about an applicant’s ability to carry out the particular requirements of the job.
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