Although not compulsory, it is advisable to check a potential employee’s references before either offering them a position or before their probationary period ends.
You can do this in writing or by telephone at any point during the recruitment process. Some candidates will prefer you not to check their references until they have been offered the job, and you should seek their consent before any referees are contacted.
Since the GDPR came into force in May of this year, we have been advising clients to obtain written consent from potential/new employees. And we are also advising that when asked to provide a reference for a former employee, you ask to see the consent given by the candidate.
Except for certain employers in the financial services sector, as an Employer, you are not obliged to give references, but if you do then it must be fair and accurate. If an individual believes that the reference given about them is unfair or misleading, then they are within their rights to challenge this.
Most references provided will confirm only dates of employment, job title and reason for leaving, but you may ask other questions such as:
How many days of sick leave they took, (but be mindful of disabilities which could affect an employee’s level of sickness and absence)
Whether they were subject to disciplinary action – and if so – why
Whether they were reliable, honest and hardworking
If there are any reasons why they should not be employed
Extra detail can be revealed by telephoning the referee. It is advisable to email the referee before-hand so they expect your call and have time to prepare.
A candidate may give you a copy of a written reference at interview stage. If you have any doubts about whether this is genuine, you should contact the referee to check either by email or telephone.
For more information on the above or to receive a Reference Authorisation template free of charge, please contact us: