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If you give a reference, you have a duty to both the employee and to the recipient of the reference, to take reasonable care to ensure that its contents are true, accurate and fair, and that it is not misleading.
Provided that this duty is met and you can substantiate its content, you can give a bad reference.
Getting it wrong however can be costly and could lead to the employee suing you for damages or in a worst case scenario, they could bring an action against you for defamation or discrimination. In the event that any reference would be “bad”, in order to avoid the risk of such claims, it is common for employers to provide a factual reference only which does nothing more than confirm the employee’s role and their dates of employment.
If you would like more information regarding employment law speak to one of our solicitors on 0113 220 6270. Find out more about our employment services here.