Employment References Policy
Committee Approved by: Workforce Services Group, Joint Consultative
Date Approved: 9 June 2009
Author: Head of Workforce Services
Responsible Directorate: Corporate Services
Date issued: 23 June 2011
Review date: 30 September 2011
Version Control Sheet
Document Title: Employment References Policy
The table below logs the history of the steps in development of the document.
See example below
Version Date Author Status Comment
0.1 28/05/09 Janine Draft For comment
0.1 8 June Janine Draft Joint Consultative Committee -
2009 Heptinstall, for approval - approved
0.1 9 June Janine Draft Workforce Services Group for
2009 Heptinstall, approval
1 9 June Janine Final Workforce Services Group -
2009 Heptinstall, approved
2 23 June Final Joint Consultative Committee
2011 meeting agreed to extend
review date to 30 September
2011 to accommodate
Standards for Better Health Map
NHSLA Risk Management Standards Map
1 Introduction 1
2 Aims and Objectives 1
3 Scope of the Policy 1
4 Accountability 1
5 Equality Impact Assessment 1
6 Implementation and Dissemination 1
7 Monitoring Compliance with and the Effectiveness 1
of Procedural Documents
8 Reference 2
9 Associated Documentation 2
10 Obtaining References 2
11 Providing References 2
Appendix 1 Equality Impact Assessment tool 5
As a large employer, NHS Wakefield District has a duty to provide work
references for its former employees.
2 Aims and Objectives
This policy aims to provide guidance to managers on providing employment
references to third parties and to highlight the responsibilities, and legal
liabilities, that may arise when providing references for existing or former
employees. This guidance incorporates best practice, current legislative
framework and case law.
3 Scope of the Policy
This policy applies to all Staff employed by NHS Wakefield District.
The Director of Corporate Services is responsible for this policy.
The Workforce Services Group is responsible for monitoring compliance
with this policy.
The Workforce Services Group is responsible for formal approval of this
5 Equality Impact Assessment
NHS Wakefield District aims to design and implement services, policies
and measures that meet the diverse needs of our service users,
population and workforce, ensuring that none are placed at a
disadvantage over others.
NHS Wakefield District uses a single equality impact assessment for all of
its policies and procedures. The Equality Impact Assessment for this
policy is included at Appendix 1.
6 Implementation and Dissemination
This policy will, following ratification by the Governance Committee, be
disseminated to staff via the organisation’s intranet.
7 Monitoring Compliance with and the Effectiveness of Procedural
Access to Medical Reports Act 1988
Data Protection Act 1988
Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (and any amendments)
Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (and any amendments)
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Race Relations Act 1976 (and any amendments)
Employment Equality Regulations 2003 (and any amendments)
The Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977
The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974
9 Associated Documentation
Recuitment and Selection Policy.
Ending Employment Policy.
10 Obtaining References
10.1 The purpose of requesting a reference is to obtain, in confidence, factual
information about the past history of an applicant, as well as opinions
regarding his or her character, quality of work, the amount of sickness
absence and suitability for the new position.
10.2 All references requested by the PCT are taken in confidence and as such
any request to see references in line with the Data Protection Act may be
exempt from disclosure and managers should refer the individual back to
their referees to make the request.
For further details on obtaining references see the PCT’s Recruitment and
11 Providing References
There is no detailed legislation specifically designed to deal with
references for all employees. However many other laws impact on the
provision of references. An employer is not legally obliged to provide a
reference for a former or existing employee. NHS Wakefield District will
always provide a reference for former or existing employees.
11.1 Key legal considerations when providing a reference
A claim of negligence could arise where there has been a failure to
exercise reasonable care in the preparation of a reference. For example if
this results in loss of the reference.
If a reference contains false or unsubstantiated statements that damage
the reputation of the individual a claim for damages may result.
11.1.3 Disclosure of Convictions
Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 an applicant is not obliged
to give information regarding any previous convictions that have become
‘spent’ (further information on whether convictions are ‘spent’ can be
sought from the Workforce Services Department). It is an offence under
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this law for anyone to disclose information about spent convictions unless
It is illegal to give a poor reference because of an employee’s (or former
employee’s) race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, disability or age. It is
also illegal to give a poor reference on the basis that somebody made a
complaint of discrimination or made a protected disclosure
(whistleblowing); these could allow the individual to bring a claim against
their former/current employer.
11.1.5 Access to Medical Reports
The Access to Medical Reports Act 1988 does not allow “medical
practitioners” to provide “medical reports” without prior permission for an
individual who they currently, or have previously been, clinically
responsible for. In certain circumstances this could impact on the provision
of references for employment purposes.
11.2 Guidelines for writing references
If you receive a request to provide a reference then you should:
Ensure that the reference is marked as confidential.
Make clear your relationship to the person you are providing a
reference for (e.g. line manager, clinical tutor, placement supervisor
Ensure that the reference is true, accurate and complete.
Ensure that any statements made can be backed-up with evidence.
Avoid making disclosure about any criminal convictions.
Do not mention ‘spent’ disciplinary sanctions (speak to HR for further
advice if unsure).
Do not mention ‘unproven’ disciplinary matters (i.e. where it was
found there was no case to answer or current investigations). If you
are unclear on this, please contact the Workforce Services
Do not provide information about medical conditions but you may
state number and length of absences (just not reasons for absence).
If you are asked to provide a reference for a member of staff who
has been dismissed, please ensure that you complete this in
conjunction with the Workforce Services Department.
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You should only provide a reference for a person that you have had
responsibility for (e.g. line management responsibility, clinical
supervisory responsibility etc).
If you need further advice or wish to discuss the content of a reference
before releasing it then speak to the HR team.
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Equality Impact Assessment
WDPCT has an Equality Impact Assessment Toolkit which should be used, with
the completed proforma enclosed when any procedural document is submitted to
the appropriate committee for consideration and approval.
An initial assessment using the proforma below should be undertaken.
If the initial assessment demonstrates an adverse impact on differing groups, a full
impact assessment must be undertaken using the toolkit.
For further assistance and guidance refer to the Equality Impact Assessment
Toolkit and/or contact the Equality and Diversity Manager.
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Proforma for initial assessment/screening of functions, policies, and procedures
Directorate/service Department Person responsible for the assessment
Corporate Services Workforce Services Mark White
Name of function/policy/ Date of assessment
procedure New policy/function/procedure x (please tick)
Employment References 3rd June 2009 Existing policy/function/procedure
1 Who are the main List:
stakeholders intended All staff
to benefit from the
2 How will each stake List for each stakeholder:
holder benefit? (what
are the aims?) Ensures that the organisation provides a fair, balanced and correct reference for current and former
3 What forces/factors
could contribute/ None
detract from the
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4 Are there concerns that State Is there any evidence for this? Score likely risk
the function/policy/ yes of impact using
procedure could have a or no grading table
differential impact on - (see pg 14)
Ethnic groups No 1
Faith group No 1
Disability No 1
a) physical (including
c) learning disability
Employment References Policy 10
Sexual orientation No 1
Age No 1
Gender (including marital No 1
Socio-economic group No 1
Human Rights No 1
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Risk Assessment Grading Tool
Risk Assessment Circle consequence, SCORE
likelihood and total score
e.g. 2 x 3 = 6
LIKELIHOOD/PROBABILITY OF REPEAT
INCIDENT None/ Possibl Likely Highly Certain
CONSEQUENCES Remote e 20% 60% Likely
chance chance 90%
1 2 3 5
1 Insignificant 1 2 3 4 5
2 Minor 2 4 6 8 10
3 Significant 3 6 9 12 15
4 Serious 4 8 12 16 20
5 Catastrophic 5 10 15 20 25
Green (score 5 or less) Low risk Low priority Prioritise for action
Amber (score 6 to 15) Medium Medium Prioritise for action
risk priority medium priority
Red (score 16 to 25) High risk High priority high priority
Reported through the
Or any incident recorded risk register. 16+ score
as Catastrophic senior management
regardless of the consider informing the
likelihood/probability of board
Classifications of Impact
Measures of impact
Level Descriptor Example detail description
1 Insignificant No perceived impact
May have a minor impact on a few or all people
from this diverse group
Will have a significant impact on a few or all
people from this diverse group
Will have serious consequences on a few or all
people from this diverse group
Could cause death and/or result in major litigation
and/or create significant press interest
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Measures of likelihood
Level Descriptor Example detail description
The impact may only happen in exceptional
2 The impact could occur at some time
3 The impact may well occur at some time
4 The impact will occur in most circumstances
The impact is expected to occur in most
5 Almost Certain
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