Compulsory employee references?

The government is to consult on whether employers should be compelled to provide basic references for former employees.

Apart from certain regulated sectors, there is currently no legal obligation on employers to provide a reference to a departing employee.

This idea has been mooted as part of the government’s response to the investigation of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) by the Women and Equalities Select Committee (WESC) which came up with 45 recommendations.

The idea to compel employers to provide a basic reference is designed, says the government, to protect individuals who’ve faced discrimination or harassment from being intimidated by threatening to withhold a reference. The response notes that there is ‘merit in considering this idea further’ and a consultation will appear in due course.

In July 2019 the government published its proposals for restricting the use of NDAs and this response restates much of what we already knew, i.e. that new legislation will be introduced restricting the use of NDAs in employment contracts and settlement agreements and there will be a requirement for independent legal advice to be provided to individuals asked to sign an NDA.