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Press Release June 6, 2005


TRADITIONAL job references could soon be a thing of the past because of the overwhelming threat of litigation, a survey has revealed.

Employers are now so fearful of costly employment tribunals that 90 per cent have already stopped writing full references.

And as many as one in five small businesses refuse to act as referees for any former staff, whether they were good employees or not.

“The old style of written reference from a former employer used to be a firm’s best guide as to a candidate’s past character,” said employment law specialist Pam Rogerson.

“But that is becoming a thing of the past as small businesses refuse to say anything they fear could come back to haunt them.”

A survey by specialist law firm Employment Law Advisory Services (ELAS) published today found that only one in ten small businesses were happy to write a full reference for former staff.

Some 69 per cent said they would only confirm a former employee’s position, history and absences.

And a fifth of firms claimed that even that was too risky and had decided never to act as referees.

The result in the long term is that, not only will recruiting become even more difficult, but employers will be hit by the rising costs of hiring candidates only to find they are not suitable for your job.

“The fear of litigation now is such that managers will not do or write anything which they fear may end up in court,” added Mrs Rogerson, head of personnel at ELAS.

“But that should not mean the death of references altogether.

“With a little care and some legal advice, employers can still get the message across without putting themselves at risk of litigation. If that means sticking to the facts alone, so be it.”


ELAS questioned 700 small and medium sized (SME) businesses about how happy they were giving references for former staff.

69 per cent would not give full references for fear of litigation and were happy only to supply short, factual testimonies.
20 per cent refuse to give references under any circumstances.
11 per cent remained happy to write traditional references when approached.

Note to Editors

For more information or to interview ELAS employment consultant ­Pam Rogerson call Chris Marritt at Mason Media on 0151 707 4514 or 07908 214950.

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