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The Risk in Giving References

2 Lessons None

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You had a difficult Employee who has left – you feel happy about the departure but the Employee has asked for a reference. What can you say? Be careful!

1.Your integrity is everything so do not lie or mislead.  If you are not truthful you will tarnish your reputation and mislead the other party. Misleading and deceptive behaviour can be problematic, especially if it causes loss to the new Employer.

2.You need to be truthful, but objective and fair.  Remember, you are not obligated to provide a reference (unless you have agreed otherwise). If you have nothing positive to say – then say nothing.

3.Adopt a Policy within your Practice that only management is authorised to provide a reference.  You don’t want your unauthorised staff saying things which are not a true reflection of the facts, or are inconsistent with your opinion, and it is not right that they can bind the Practice. Be clear on who is authorised to provide a reference on behalf of the Practice – normally the Practitioner and the Practice Manager is a good way to go. Make sure your Policy is clear that giving unauthorised references is serious, exposes risk and can lead to disciplinary action including termination of employment, so is unacceptable.

4.What can you say?  If good, explain why. If there are only some positive aspects, talk about those. You can talk about the negative aspects but do not be defamatory. Use language such as “in my opinion and based on X working here, I feel that he/she needs further development in relation to ....” You can say “I would not offer X another role here” or “he/she did not fit the culture and is more of an individual player”.

5. What not to say?  Don’t make personal or inappropriate comments which relate to the persons appearance, sexuality, gender, marital status, race or other discriminatory attributes.

6. Don’t lie as this could be defamatory I.e. “X stole from us” if he/she did not.

TIP: Maintain your integrity and reputation as this is an opportunity for the prospective Employer to judge you and talk about you. Be professional, honest and fair in your responses. Use language based on “your opinion”. Talk about areas for further development rather than problems. Do not swear or make inappropriate or defamatory comments. Remember – if there is nothing good to say, then say nothing!

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Guide to Giving References

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