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Acas launches new advice on job references

Tuesday 04 September 2018

Workplace experts, Acas, have published new guidance to help employers and employees know the rules around employment references.

A recent survey found that nearly half of employers want job applicants who have relevant work experience.

Tom Neil, Acas Senior Adviser said:

"The job market can very competitive so it is vitally important for job applicants and employers to know what the legal requirements are around work references.

"We've based our advice around the typical questions that we receive on our helpline about job references.

"Acas' new advice has information on what to include in work references, when they are needed and how to resolve problems with references."

Typical questions the Acas helpline receives about job references:

  • Can an employer refuse to give a reference?
  • How can I obtain a copy of the reference my previous employer has supplied?
  • If a reference is incorrect what can I do about it?
  • Can my employer includes absence rates relating to sickness in a reference?
  • Can an employer put negative things in a reference?

Acas' employment references advice includes top tips such as:

Employers can usually choose whether or not to give a reference;

  • Employers must only seek a reference from a job applicant's current employers with their permission;
  • If a conditional job offer is made then it can be withdrawn if the job applicant doesn't meet satisfactory references. Employees should consider waiting until they get an unconditional job offer before handing in their notice in their current job;
  • Potential employers should remember a referee may not provide a reference or might inaccurately suggest the applicant is suitable. In these circumstances, it may help to discuss any concerns with the job applicant directly first; and
  • Job applicants who are unhappy with a reference can ask for a copy that was sent to their new employers and may be able to claim damages in court if they can prove it was misleading or inaccurate and resulted in the withdrawal of their job offer.

Read Acas' employment references guidance.

Notes to editors

  1. For media enquiries please contact Lou Owen, Marketing and Media Manager 0330 109 3835. For out of hours media enquiries please call the out of hours duty press officer on 0330 109 7070.
  2. Survey by AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians):
  3. The Acas guidance can be viewed at
  4. Acas stands for Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. Acas provides free and impartial information and advice to employers and employees on all aspects of workplace relations and employment law. We support good relationships between employers and employees which underpin business success. We also provide good value, high quality training and tailored advice to employers. Our expertise is based on millions of contacts with employers and employees each year. Acas is an independent and impartial statutory body governed by a Council made up of members from business, trade unions, academia and the law.