Reference letter for an (ex-) employee

What’s a letter in response to a reference request for an ex-employee and when should you use one?


This template can be used to reply to requests for references on one of your employees or ex-employees.

Your employee should be aware that you’re providing a reference and to whom.

Generally speaking, employers are not obliged to provide a reference.

However, any employer who decides to provide a reference owes a duty of care to an existing employee to ensure that reasonable care is taken in preparing the reference and that it is true, fair and accurate.

Equally, any employer has a duty of care to any future employer as they will rely on what is in the reference.

When compiling a reference an employer must also be mindful of data protection legislation, which provides that an employee has a right to see and be provided with a copy of any reference created.

However, the position is slightly different for “expressions of opinion” given on the understanding that the reference/opinion be treated as confidential.

Simply marking the reference as “confidential” may not be sufficient however.

It is preferable that you expressly state the requirement of confidentiality in the text of the reference itself.

Where references are concerned, the legal basis would most commonly be that the employee has consented to the data being shared with the new employer.

If you’re unsure whether the candidate has given consent, you should contact them to check that they do want you to provide the reference.

You should obtain that consent in writing if possible, or at least make a note of the individual’s verbal consent.

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